I was surprised when my mom had no clue about this dish. Where’d I learn it then? Somewhere along the way it snuck into my repertoire… and easily makes a frequent appearance. We’re not in farmer’s market pepper season now, but that doesn’t stop the shops from selling peppers. And I take the bait.
It’s an easy dish and speaks some real Italian. All you do is stem and seed bell peppers and slice them into thick strips. Sauté peppers with sliced onion in some olive oil until the hodgepodge is a bit wilted and, not exactly super-soft, but to the tooth (al dente!).
I reach for the red, yellow, or orange peppers. But I’d guess that green peppers were the original ingredient. Green peppers were the only pepper I knew growing up. And green peppers pop up in Italy a lot, too. I’m just not a big fan of the greens. The flavor is stronger and twists in a direction I don’t always like to go. BUT, by all means. Toss them in.
I fiddle with the classic and also add some chucks of zucchini, and/or a cut-up fresh tomato, a few capers sometimes, and for a bit of punch, a drizzle of a favorite vinegar…and, for a bit of crunch, sometimes I sprinkle with toasted breadcrumb. Oh, and fresh herbs if you’ve got them on hand. Thyme. Basil. Mint. Sage?
Call it a side dish. Call it a main dish. Call it a pasta sauce. Call it peperonata. (But don’t call it a taxi– I’m still eating.)
3 red & yellow peppers, stems, seeds and membrane discarded
3 small zucchini
2 medium tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled & sliced in half-moons
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup capers
2-3 tablespoons favorite vinegar
2-3 sprigs fresh basil or mint, or combination
1/4 cup breadcrumbs, lightly toasted in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil
Cut the peppers into thick slices. Cut the zucchini into inch-thick half-moons. Cut the tomatoes into wedges.
Heat some olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion. Cook for a few minutes until softened, then add the peppers. Cook for about 4-5 minutes until the peppers have softened. Add the zucchini and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until zucchini is softened and tomatoes break down a bit, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the capers. Drizzle some vinegar. Tear leaves of basil or mint and add to mixture. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted breadcrumb. Serve hot or at room temperature.