Peppers

(“Peperoni”- “Pipi”)

 

Peppers are indigenous of Mexico and South America. They were introduced in Europe, Asia and Africa by the XVI century along with other plants of the Solanaceae family which also included potato, tomato, eggplant, tobacco and other varieties used for medical purposes, now they are cultivated all over the world and have become an part of everyday aliments.
This fruit is called pepper by most of the English speaking population, pimento or chili in Latin-American countries, “pipi” in Sicilian, in Italian “pepperoni”, paprika in some European countries, and capsicum in India New Zealand and Australia, from Latin capsa, meaning box which is the shape of the pod enclosing the seeds. 
The chemical capsaicin contained in the seeds and in the pulp, produces a pungent burning sensation when it touches the taste buds or when it touches the skin.
Peppers come in many varieties, many colors and many different shapes.
Generally there are two main categories: sweet peppers and hot peppers.
Sweet peppers come in bell shape, or in oblong varieties.
Bell peppers are mostly used as appetizers or as a side dish roasted, sautéed fried or stuffed and they go well with pork, beef, chicken or veal; the banana or the oblong shaped are mostly fried, hence are called “friarielli” in Italian.
The hot peppers also come round, and oblong and in shades from green to red or in other colors. Some round shaped hot peppers the size of small tomatoes are preferred for stuffing and preserving in oil. A Tuscan variety, conic shaped pepper is called “Piccolo di Firenze” and it is harvested unripe and green: it is sweet, tender, and tasty, and preserved in vinegar.
Pimento is a variety of cherry pepper that can be mild-sweet or hot. Because the mild variety has a thick pulp, a strong peppery taste, and a sweet smell it is used in the canning industry.   
Peppers became essential to many cuisines, and they are preferred for their taste and striking colors.
Before the discovery of America and the introduction of the chili peppers, to give the hot and spicy taste to food a combination of horseradish, ginger and garlic, (rafano, zenzero and aglio in Italian) was used in Sicily and in the old world.
Following are some easy and tasty recipes.

 

 

 

Roasted Peppers

 

(“Peperoni Arrostiti” – “Pipi Arrustuti”)

 

Roasted peppers are simply dressed with salt, oil, lemon juice and mint which act as preservers, therefore can be kept in the refrigerator or in the pantry for weeks.
Before serving you can add minced garlic, capers, chopped anchovies, and oregano, black and hot red pepper. 
You can use basil and or rosemary instead of mint, if you like it better.
Great side dish to a barbecued steak or as part of an appealing antipasto: convenient because they can be prepared days ahead.

 

                           

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 pulpy red and/or yellow sweet peppers
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Juice of 2 large lemons
  • 12 mint leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Sprigs of mint for garnish


 

PREPARATION


Heat oven at the highest temperature or set at broil. 
Wash the peppers and dry with a clean kitchen rag.
Place peppers in a pan and keep in oven until skin appears to be char; or you can use a grill or the open flame on the stove to char the peppers. 
Remove and transfer into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or in a paper bag and close so no steam will escape.
When the peppers are cold enough that they can be handled, cut them in half and remove the cores, seeds and as much skin as possible, and cut each half in two or three parts. 
Do this over a large bowl with a strainer to collect any tasty drained liquid which will be part of the dressing.
Add to the drained liquid, 4 tablespoons of oil, lemon juice, mint leaves, salt to taste and mix all ingredients well. Add the peppers and gently stir. Set on the side for about one hour to blend the various flavors.
Place the roasted peppers in a serving dish and garnish with a few sprigs of mint.
At serving time you can add garlic, olives, capers, anchovies, oregano, basil and or any other ingredients that you like.
Serve at room temperature.

 

 

 

Fried Peppers

(“Peperoni Fritti” – “Pipi Fritti”)

                               
Delicious side dish served with meats or as part of an antipasto.
Prepare one pepper per person, if you cook extra they taste better the next day; leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 pulpy red and/or yellow sweet peppers
  • 2 cloves of garlic thickly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of capers
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
  • 2 fillets of anchovies rinsed and chopped (Optional)
  • ½ cup of olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sprigs of parsley for garnish


                               

 

PREPARATION

Frying the Peppers
Wash the peppers and dry with a clean kitchen rag, cut them in half and remove the cores, seeds and any white membranes.
Cut peppers in half inch strips and set on the side.
In a large skillet at a medium heat, place the half cup of olive oil. Before oil starts to smoke begin to fry the peppers, until they became wilted, in three or four batches without crowding the pan.
Use a slotted spoon to place the fried peppers on paper towels to drain, sprinkle with a little salt.
In a large bowl mash the (optional) anchovies with 1 tablespoon of oil, add the capers, the chopped parsley, black pepper to taste, no salt if using anchovies and mix all ingredients well. Add the peppers and gently stir. Set on the side for about one hour to blend the various flavors.
Place in a serving dish and garnish with a few sprigs of parsley.

 

 

Peppers with Tomatoes

(“Peperonata” - “Pipi cu Sucu”)

 

This dish in Sicilian is also called “a tuttu rintra”, meaning to place all the ingredients in a a sauté pan and cook until they are done. I follow a different way of preparation which I prefer because the primary ingredients are fried before the tomato and other ingredients are added, giving the peppers a chance to develop their full flavor.   
A note for my family’s member: I remember that when my father’s sister, 
la Zia Bettina made what she called “peperonata”, it was made like a “caponatina” other than replacing the eggplants with peppers. I was delicious!...

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 10 pulpy red and/or yellow sweet peppers
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 28 oz. can of Italian peeled tomatoes
  • 4 fillets of anchovies preserved in oil
  • 3 tablespoons of capers, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sprigs of basil for garnish
  • A pinch of oregano

                          FriedPeperoni withSauce
 

PREPARATION


Wash the peppers and dry with a clean kitchen rag, cut them in half and remove the cores, seeds and any white membranes.
Cut peppers into large strips and set on the side.
Chop the peeled tomatoes coarsely or place in a food processor and blend for 10 seconds until chunky. Set on the side
In a large sauce pot, at a medium heat, place olive oil, the anchovies and with the help of a wooden spoon mash the anchovies as the garlic is sautéing.
Add the peppers, ½ teaspoon of salt and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomatoes, capers, basil and black pepper to taste; mix, stir and continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes.
Check for doneness and for salt, add it if needed.
Transfer to a serving dish; garnish with basil sprigs and a pinch of oregano.
Serve hot or at room temperature.

 

 

Stuffed Peppers

(“Peperoni Ripieni”- Pipi Chini”)

Stuffed pepper is a very popular dish prepared all over the world. Peppers are stuffed with beef, pork, rice, pasta, with other vegetables or a combination of all the above ingredients.
At Joe’s of Avenue “U” the Focacceria Palermitana, stuffed peppers were filled with pork, breadcrumbs, garlic and other ingredients to give the robust and flavorful properties characteristic of the culinary tradition in the Sicilian countryside cooking.
The following recipe is the type of stuffed peppers prepared in Palermo by my family; I love the taste and I prefer them for the sweetness, taste and aroma which remind and take me back in time with flashes across my mind of people and souvenirs so dear to my life.

 

SERVES 4

                                
 

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 pulpy red and/or yellow sweet peppers
  • 8 full tablespoons of toasted breadcrumbs
  • 8 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium size onion chopped
  • 2 fillets of anchovies preserved in oil, minced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, without seeds and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of raisins
  • 2 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped basil
  • 3 oz. diced caciocavallo or provola cheese
  • 3 oz. diced salami
  • 4 sprigs of basil for garnish


 

PREPARATION


 

Wash the peppers and dry with a clean kitchen rag; using a sharp knife, cut the top from the peppers. Remove the cores, seeds and any white membranes and set on the side.
In a large skillet, at a high heat sauté the onion with 3 tablespoons of oil, stirring frequently until onion is light golden in color, about 5 minutes; add anchovies and tomatoes and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Add and blend the breadcrumbs into the onion-tomato mixture and continue sautéing for a few minutes.
Place in a large bowl and when the breadcrumb mixture has cooled combine it with raisins, toasted pine nuts, chopped basil, cheese and salami. Mix well, add black pepper to taste and check and add salt if it is needed. 
If the stuffing is too dry add some olive oil.
Pour the remaining oil, ½ cup of water and a pinch of salt in a sauce pan large enough to hold the peppers standing up.
Stuff the pepper, each with ¼ of the filling, place in the sauce pan and cook covered at a medium heat and before they start to boil bring heat very low for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until peppers are cooked. 
They must be carefully moved around a few times and when the water in the pot evaporates let the peppers cook in the oil and in their own released juice.
Serve hot or at room temperature, drizzle each pepper with the oil and juice gathered in the sauce pan and garnish with a sprig of basil.