September 3, 2014

Peperonata: Mixed Pepper Salad - Photo by Judith Hausman (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

Peperonata is a continental name for a mess of mixed peppers, and it’s delicious—flavorful but not spicy. An antipasto or side dish, peperonata is quickly prepared on the stove top, not producing much heat in the kitchen, and is best served at room temperature. In the traditional style, slice all the peppers into long strips, using rubber gloves when working with hot peppers.

When high summer, Mediterranean vegetables start coming in, ratatouille, caponata and peperonata are go-to, summer meal dishes for me. They stretch and combine small harvests and accompany almost any entrée well, from barbecued ribs to poached salmon. They can also stand alone as vegetarian main courses, with a sprinkle of feta, cotija or ricotta salata cheese. A slow sauté in good olive oil is a key component to all three of the dishes, so neither stint on the oil nor drown your peppers for this recipe. Also take care not to overcook the peppers, watching that they retain some texture.

I served this peperonata to a few friends alongside some grilled sausage and fresh corn. It’s enough peperonata to top a couple of pizzas, pile on some bruschetta or fill a few frittatas, as well. Combined with some creamy ricotta, peperonata also makes a terrific stuffing for calzone or a layering sauce in lasagna. A generous pinch or kosher salt, many firm grinds of black pepper and a strewing of basil or a sprinkle of parsley or cilantro before serving creates an attractive flourish for the peperonata, a simple classic perfect for these bittersweet but bountiful last days of summer.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6+ mild peppers
  • 1-2 hot peppers, carefully cleaned
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large red or yellow onion, sliced in half-moons, or 4 scallions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 4-5 tomatoes, preferably meaty ones, such as Roma, diced
  • fresh basil, for garnish
  • lemon juice

Preparation

Clean peppers, and slice into long strips.

In large sauté pan over high heat, heat oil. Add onions and sauté until just soft. Add peppers and cook until just soft, stirring often. Do not overcook; the peppers should retain some crunch. Add garlic and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes. Season to taste and add sugar. Add tomatoes and cook just another min. Season before serving with torn basil leaves and lemon juice.

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