In Lancianese cooking, one of the esteemed cuisines near me, peppers both hot and sweet figure heavily. This dish is made of the sweet ones. Of course, you can always hot pepper it up should you choose to (see recipe in this section).
La peperonata is a very simple side dish that’s roll-your-eyes tasty. It’s a great option for holiday entertaining because it’s colorful and easy to make in quantity. Served on toast, it’s also easy to eat with only a cocktail napkin in hand, and makes a great alternative to a traditional tomato bruschetta. I brought it to a Christmas Eve party last year and it was a crowd-pleaser.
The dish calls primarily for red peppers, but I like to throw in a yellow or orange one for color.
If you’re expecting a holiday horde, remember that these peppers cook down in an absolutely shocking manner, so don't scrimp in estimating how many you’ll need. Because this kind of home cooking tends to be a matter of “throw it in in a quantity that feels right,” you can adjust all the ingredients up and down without puzzling over precise ratios.
For about 12 toasts:
Olive oil —start with one tbsp per pepper and go from there. I like things oily, so usually end up adding more along the way.
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 red and orange bell peppers, seeded and chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped fine. I don’t find garlic essential to this recipe so, uncharacteristically, don’t overdo it. I've even made it without any garlic at all.
Kosher or sea salt — lots, because you need to balance the peppers' sweetness
Water — about 4 oz.
Hearty bread, cut into manageable slices
Fry the onions and peppers in the oil and salt over a pretty high flame, letting them char a bit. You can, of course, char the peppers directly over a flame, but some might say that's complicating your life unnecessarily.
After a few minutes, add the water (and maybe a bit more oil), give everything a good stir, lower the flame, and cover. Let the mixture cook for about 20 minutes so it all melts together nicely.
Note: Abruzzo home cooking often calls for using olive oil and a bit of water at the same time. For a lot of recipes like this one, the simultaneous sautéing and simmering helps the ingredients soften even as they brown; the juices from the peppers and onions integrate with the oil, water, and salt to create a glazy sauce.
Meanwhile, toast the bread if you’re serving bruschetta. If you’re so inclined, scrape the toasts with raw garlic.
Check the pot here and there to see if you might want to add water or oil. If the mixture winds up too liquidy, just remove the lid and let the water cook off. Definitely sample for salt before serving.
It suddenly strikes me that the foods I’ve posted have been almost relentlessly red. I’ll give red a rest in the next few posts.