Chef Jason Stratton, late of Poppy and Cafe Juanita, recently took the helm at Cascina Spinasse, where Justin Neidermeyer had been the founding chef. Earlier this month, Nancy Leson interviewed Stratton about the transition, and he shared his plans to meld his long-standing passion for Italian food with the bounty of seasonal ingredients from local farms.
These days, Stratton says that what he is most excited about is zucchini -- particularly the Italian heirloom varieties he's been getting from his friends Siri Erickson-Brown and Jason Salvo at Local Roots Farm. His favorite way to use them? Zucchini in carpione. "It's a great way to use up a lot of zucchini," says Stratton, "as it keeps for quite awhile and just improves in flavor. [Cooking something 'in carpione'] is traditionally a way to preserve fish like sardines (the name refers to carp), but you can also do the same thing with pounded chicken or turkey breasts. A classic dish to pair with Dolcetto." Stratton loves this dish with a little marinated clam salad on top, but says it's wonderful spread on bread or eaten simply on its own.Zucchini in Carpione
2 medium zucchini
1 onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 bunch Italian parsley, roughly chopped
Small handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups white wine (something dry, crisp, and drinkable)
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
Good-quality extra virgin olive oil
Slice zucchini lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Salt and let stand (say, in a colander above the sink) for 1 hour to draw out moisture. Pat dry on kitchen towels and season with pepper. Fry slices over medium-high heat in a large pan with generous amount of olive oil until the zucchini is well browned. Flip and lightly cook the other side. Remove to a sheet tray or platter to cool slightly.
Reduce heat, add the onion to the pan, and cook slowly until well softened and starting to turn golden. Add the sliced garlic, and continue cooking until the garlic is just pale golden. Turn heat up and add white wine and vinegar. Reduce mixture until the liquid is at the level of the onions. Stir in chopped mint and parsley. Taste for salt and acid. The liquid should be well seasoned and rather tart. Add more vinegar if needed.
Put a little of the onion mixture in the bottom of a ceramic baking dish or terrine. Add a layer of zucchini slices. Alternate layers of zucchini slices and the onion mixture, making sure each slice is generously coated with onion. After all slices are packed in, press down gently with your hands and cover the top with a thin layer of olive oil. Let cool at room temperature.
The zucchini keeps very well in your fridge as long as it is covered with a layer of oil. Make it a day ahead, as the flavor improves greatly after sitting overnight. However, be sure to let come to room temperature before eating, as the flavor is a little muted when served chilled.