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Sweet & Sour Squash | Cucuzza in Agruduci

Fried squash slices with sweet and sour sauce with mint.

Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine Sicilian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 orange-fleshed squash
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 sprig fresh mint chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh mint for garnish

Instructions

Prepare the squash

  1. Cut the squash in two, remove the seeds and stringy core, and peel it. If the skin is quite thin you can use a sturdy vegetable peeler.

  2. Slice the squash into roughly 3/4 cm / 1/3 inch slices. If the type of squash you're using is really hard you could go thinner. 

Fry the squash

  1. Heat about 1/4 inch or half a centimeter of extra virgin olive oil in a pan big enough to accommodate all the sliced squash comfortably later, over medium-high heat. 

  2. When the oil is hot enough to make the corner of a piece of squash sizzle excitedly, add a single layer of squash and fry until golden brown on the underside. Turn the squash over and cook through. 

  3. Adjust the heat so that you can brown the squash and cook it through in the same amount of time. Under-browned squash will leave you with an anemic flavor, over cooking will make the squash fall apart. Try and hit the sweet spot. 

  4. Transfer the cooked squash to a plate with whatever oil is clinging to the squash. You are not trying to drain it. Sprinkle the squash lightly with salt as it comes out of the oil. Repeat with the remaining squash.

Make the sauce

  1. While the squash is frying, mix the vinegar, sugar and a healthy pinch of salt in a glass or small bowl to dissolve. After the last of the squash has been cooked, remove all but two tablespoons of the frying oil and add the contents of the glass.

  2. Once the liquid is bubbling vigorously, add all the squash back to the pan and cook until the sauce is reduced to a thick consistency and the vinegar has lost its sharp edge. Mix to combine but gently; try to avoid breaking up the squash. Turn off the heat. 

  3. Taste the sauce. If the sauce has become too sweet, add some drops of vinegar to enliven it. Add salt if needed, keeping in mind the dish will be served lukewarm or cold which diminishes the effect of salt.  

  4. Now you have a decision to make: if you prefer a more muted mint flavor that goes throughout the dish, add the mint now and stir gently to combine. Otherwise sprinkle it over the finished dish on the platter. 

  5. Turn the contents of the pan out onto a broad platter. If you did not add the mint before, sprinkle it over the dish now, using the residual heat to unlock its aroma. This results in a brighter, more herbaceous mint flavor that contrasts the squash rather than becoming part of it. 

  6. Let the dish cool completely. Refrigerate if desired. If serving the dish cold, allow it to stand outside the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before serving. 

  7. Serve with a bright and spry sprig of fresh mint.