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Matta per la Cipollata!

I love homely contadino food. Always have. Show me a garlicky tomato sauce or thick bean soup or almost any mashup of humble ingredients like potatoes and onions that get stuck to the pot and I’ll gladly take it over a chef's special of artichoke gelee molded into the form of a prisoner dripping tears of salty balsamic reduction inside a cage of tempura zucchini sticks. Self-important food is fine in its place, but not in my place. And who ever truly craves it?

La cipollata is a Lancianese dish that fits the bill. It’s prepared year-round but is particularly satisfying in winter because it’s smoky and spicy and, ideally, oily and salty.. Lancianese tradition says that a woman who really loves her husband will serve him cipollata at the end of a long day working in the fields.

(That's just a bit of local color. Please don't shoot the messenger a vituperative email.)

As I think I’ve said before, most of the recipes I post are approximations and are very forgiving. That's definitely the case here.

For 4 Servings

6 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. salt

Two medium onions, coarsely chopped

6 medium waxy potatoes, unpeeled and in 1/2-inch cubes

Water (1/2 cup or so)

5-6 cloves garlic, chopped

Powdered red hot pepper (as much as you can tolerate)

Powdered red sweet pepper (if you’re not using much hot pepper, you’ll need more of this to color the dish)

More salt

Let the onions brown a bit in the oil and salt, then add the potatoes and let them brown, too. Add garlic, pepper powders, and water; cover and cook until the potatoes are pretty soft -- even a little mushy -- and willing to bond with fellow pot dwellers, and the whole concoction has melted into a saucy whole. (Add water if the dish seems dry or uncover and cook some water off if necessary.) Taste for salt and hot pepper before serving. Note: The sweet pepper is as much about making the dish an appealing red as it is about adding flavor.

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