I was thinking about the upcoming 4th of July holiday while I was shopping this week. I spotted wonderful summer bell peppers at many of the farm stands at our local farmers market. They looked so sunny, their bright yellow, red and orange hues made me happy just looking at them (green peppers are just unripe peppers), so I had to grab some.
In thinking about what to do with these beauties, I surprised myself by realizing that I am officially tired of stuffed peppers (at least for now). Stuffed peppers tend to be my go-to summer recipe for sweet bell peppers. I’ve stuffed them with every conceivable ingredient including in the sweet-and-sour Sicilian tradition. I still enjoy many of these preparations, don’t get me wrong–but I’m feeling this summer that t’s just time to move on: try something different.
Exploring alternatives, I came back to a classic summer bell pepper dish called Peperonata, which also comes from Sicily. It’s another sweet-and-sour combination of simple stewed summer bell peppers with a hint of acid from added vinegar and green olives. This combination of sweet-and-sour flavors shows up in lots of Sicilian dishes, including Caponata, Pasta con le sarde and Swordfish rolls.
Casual cooking is what I love about the summertime. We had some friends over for a casual mid-week dinner and this peperonata recipe made a simple, easy side dish that our guests loved. I served it with grilled tri-tip steak and blanched green beans tossed in crispy pancetta and onions. We finished our al fresco supper with freshly sliced white peaches and honey whipped cream. Easy! Delicious!
So next time gorgeous bell peppers are calling your name at the farm stand or grocery store, consider this easy side dish that will impress your guests. Here’s to a great summer of casual, flavor-packed cooking and dining with friends!
Joey (and Michele) !!Print
- 5 sweet bell peppers – a mixture of red, yellow, orange (no green peppers)
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 garlic clove – crushed and minced
- 4 oz. prepared tomato sauce -or- 1 tbsp tomato paste mixed with 4 oz water
- 1 tbsp white or red wine vinegar
- Large handful of Sicilian green olives – chopped and pitted
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Any combination of fresh basil, oregano and/or parsley
- Clean and slice the peppers into ½-inch strips, removing all the interior seeds and membranes
- Place a heavy-bottom pot or a large sauté pan (either with with lid) over medium-low heat. Add 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and the red pepper flakes and heat. Add the onions and minced garlic and a pinch of salt. Cover the pot and cook the onions and garlic until soft, stirring occasionally (about 5-7 minutes). If the onions start to burn, lower the heat and add a bit more olive oil.
- Add the sliced peppers with another pinch of salt. Stir well and cover. Cook on medium-low heat until the peppers begin to soften, about 30 minutes. Check and stir occasionally. If the peppers start to burn, lower the heat and add a little water to the pan.
- Add the prepared tomato sauce (or tomato paste mixture) and some of the herbs, reserving the remainder of the herbs for a garnish. Stir and cover. Cook until the peppers are very soft but not soupy – about 30 minutes.
- Stir in the wine vinegar and olives and gently cook for 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and taste for salt.
- Serve hot, room temperature or cold–all these options work well–garnishing with the remaining herbs.