Produce displays at local farmers markets are a riot of color this time of year. A lot of that riot has to do with peppers. Hot and sweet, every color is celebrated. A recent trip to the market reminded me of a recipe I love from a cookbook I love.
Virgin Territory written by Nancy Harmon Jenkins tells the story of her purchase forty years ago of 25 acres of property in the east hills of Tuscany and how it led her to become a leading authority on olive oil and the healthy Mediterranean way of eating. The book chronicles her journey of falling in love with a place, educating herself on growing olives, and producing and cooking with olive oil. She reveals a compelling story. The recipes are authentic and reflect her respect for and involvement with the local community.
Peperonata is a simple dish that is found in one form or another all over rural Italy. Some recipes add hot peppers – some add vinegar. Capers, olives, mint and basil are often included as well as potatoes, as in this version. The dish can be served hot or room temperature. It is often a topping for crostini as part of an antipasto but delivers as a rich side dish for grilled meat or fish. I have served it over polenta, pasta and ricotta and have even poached eggs in it for brunch. It would make a spectacular omelette filling. Make the most of the seasonal bounty and try it your way!
2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
⅓ cup McEvoy Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced or cut into chunks
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 sweet peppers, preferably red and yellow
1 pound ripe red tomatoes, diced to make 1 cup (or use canned, drained plum tomatoes, chopped to make 1 cup)
1 fresh or dried red chile pepper, or more to taste
- Combine the onions and oil in a skillet large enough to hold all the ingredients and set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions begin to soften, then stir in the potatoes along with the salt and pepper and continue cooking and stirring for about 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender enough to pierce with the top of a knife.
- While the onions and potatoes are cooking, peel the sweet peppers, using a vegetable peeler to remove the thin skin on the outside. *Note: This may seem like a lot of work but the result is totally worth the effort! Cut the peppers into long, 1-inch wide strips, discarding the seeds and white membrane.
- As soon as the potatoes are tender, add the pepper strips to the pan, stirring carefully to mix well without breaking up the potatoes. Let cook for about 15 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes. If you are using a fresh chile, cut it in half, discard most of the seeds and white membrane (which is where a lot of the heat is located), cut into thin slices, and add to the pan; if you are using a dried chile, break it, shake it out to discard most of the seeds, and crumble into the pan. Stir once more and cook for another 15 minutes. If there is still a lot of liquid in the pan, raise the heat and boil rapidly until the liquid as reduced to a syrupy sauce.
Peppers at the Market
Dish is finished – Sauce is syrupy
By all means, try this your way but I want to grill a steak, top with peperonata and drink a glass of McEvoy Ranch Pacheco Ranch Vineyard Cabernet. Now, you go …