There are four quintessential Italian summer vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and zucchini. Of these, zucchini seems to get the least respect, perhaps because zucchini plants are so prolific that the surfeit soon becomes a problem. New zucchini can literally sprout from one day to another, and the production—especially around now, in late summer—can really get out of hand. I remember that one year in Rome we decided to plant zucchini and, not knowing their awesome fecundity, I planted four of them. Well, we soon had bushels of zucchini, enough to start a small agro-business. I soon learned my lesson and planted only one in subsequent years. That was more than enough for our household, with leftovers for friends.
That experience was a real revelation. The taste of home-grown zucchini was incredibly sweet—delicate but yet full of flavor. Alas, supermarket zucchini simply do not compare, but here is one preparation that makes the sometimes bland taste of zucchini come alive. The dish is called zucchine a scapece—also called zucchine in scapece or zucchine alla scapece—zucchini fried in olive oil and marinated with vinegar, garlic and mint, one of the most ancient dishes in the culinary repertoire of Campania.