My neighbor and I share so many of the same traditions, food memories, Italian idioms… If I re-tell her a memory from my childhood, she understands. If i say “my dad used to go to a Capozzelli party a few times a year” she knew what that was. Trippa, mom frying zucchini flowers in the early summer, bread and gravy on Sunday. These memories, are what define me and connect me to my past. Certain smells, certain foods will bring those memories back in an instant.
So this is how this particular cooking lesson came to pass. My neighbor brought over a small serving of her leftover zucchni that her mother had made. I took one bite and it reminded me of something my mom used to make! OMG how silly I must look, standing over the kitchen sink eating gagootz, oil dripping down my chin and crying!! The funny thing is, I make zucchini all the time, so many different ways, but this one was different. The taste…the little bowl it came in…and someone made it for me…
I asked for the recipe and when I did, my neighbor invited me to her Mother’s home with loving and open arms… “Come! My mother wants to meet you! Please, she will show us both how to make it!” I went happily.
We laughed she told stories of her travels to NY from Sturno, Italy when she was 17. She came over on a ship, and was sick the entire time from her small pox vaccine. I told her about my family. My father’s family was from Padula and my mother’s family was from Bosco Tre Casa. (just outside of Naples) Both are near hear village, so, many of our recipes were similar.
The recipe is so simple. I have not made it yet, hope it’s as easy as it seems. I will let you know. I will also add that when i got home with this big bowl of zucchini (she insisted I take all of what she made!) I managed to eat the enitre bowl throughout the course of one day. My husband, who is not a lover of zucchini had a small bowl and could not get over how yummy it was. Truth!
Split zucchini lengthwise, then cut in half moons about 1/4″ thick.
Start with a large saute pan, heat about 1/2 cup or so of olive oil. Saute about 6 cloves of garlic smashed, 3-4 whole dried red peppers, about 1 tsp of red pepper flakes & salt. (She was very particular about the whole dried red peppers. She does not like the ones here in the states, and has people bring them to her from Italy. She likes them to be very soft, not too long,they should be very fine and crumbly NOT tough. I am going to check out the Italian import store in Chelsea Market, might be a good sorce…) Saute for a few minutes. From a can of 28 oz crushed tomatoes add about one cup at a time and let this fry up in the oil on med/high heat. As it reduces add more tomatoes every 5 minutes. Then add your sliced zucchini. Stir, do not let it stick. Let is sit another 5 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup water. Let cook another 10 minutes or so maybe more, stirring occasionally. You want zucchini to be tender, cooked through.