Peperonata!

Five years ago, I posted this picture on Facebook of peppers I had just harvested from my backyard garden.

Within minutes of posting it, I received a message from a Sicilian friend living in Germany, Francesco Strazzanti, with the following message, “Peperonata!”

Francesco is a fantastic cook; so when he talks, I listen. I had never heard of peperonata. When I Googled it and learned it was a stew made with sweet bell peppers (“peperoni” in Italian), onions, and tomatoes, I realized I knew exactly what peperonata was — I just never knew the dish had a name.

There are many ways to make this dish, just like there are many ways to make
sausage with peppers and onions,

marinara sauce,

or chicken cacciatore,

The core ingredients are all pretty much the same, a variation of vegetables typically grown in a summer Italian kitchen garden: tomatoes, peppers, onions, zucchini, eggplant, garlic, basil, and parsley. These are MY VEGGIES!  I garden just to watch these beauties grow and then to have a quiet kitchen in which to prepare them in delicious and creative ways. The bonus is the connection I feel to my mother and grandmothers when I make their recipes.

Peperonata! 

Peperonata is the kind of dish you could make a big batch of every week and have in the fridge to use as you plan meals.

You could serve it over pasta for dinner or as a side dish alongside grilled sausages or chicken.

You could serve it over a slice of crusty bread with melted mozzarella or goat cheese for lunch.

Or, you could serve it scrambled with eggs for breakfast. This last way was one of my favorite foods to eat when I was a teenager. My grandmother in Baltimore used to make it for me all the time. She scrambled the eggs in olive oil and stirred in the peperonata at the end. Yum.

Yield: 8 cups

Ingredients:

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¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, about 3 cups cleaned and sliced
3 pounds bell pepper, about 10 medium-sized, or 10 cups cleaned and sliced.
1 level tablespoon chopped garlic, about 4 or 5 cloves
2 pounds juicy, ripe, tasty, tomatoes, or 4 cups cleaned and rough-chopped.
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or the leaves from about 6-8 sprigs
¼ cup chopped fresh basil, or the leaves from two stems
1 heaping tablespoon chopped mint, or the leaves of one long stem
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice,  or about ½ lemon squeezed
1 heaping tablespoon plain Greek yogurt (optional – swirl in before serving if desired)

Mise en Place:

To prep the peppers: cut in half and scoop out the stem, seeds and white pith. Chop into slices or chunks. I leave the skin on. Note: red sweet peppers make for a pretty sauce if you have a choice when buying the peppers.

 

To prep the tomatoes: cut in half horizontally, use your index finger to scoop out the seeds. Remove the stem and core and cut into two-inch chunks. I leave the skin on because the heirloom tomatoes I use (called Cherokee Purples) are thin-skinned.

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To prep the onions: remove the papery skin and white core at the base. Slice into slivers.

Instructions:
Warm olive oil in a 6-quart pan. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat until translucent.

Add peppers and garlic and sauté for 10   minutes, covered, on medium-low heat until soft. Stir about every 5 minutes. Do not brown peppers.

Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper, cover and sauté for 5 minutes on medium-low, stirring occasionally. Stir in herbs. Cover, cut off heat and let sit for about an hour to finish cooking. Stir in the honey, lemon, and yogurt. Add more salt to taste. I like to add ¼ teaspoon at a time until that moment when the salt brings out the best in all the flavors. Francesco is the one who encouraged me to add the lemon, honey, mint, and yogurt. He was spot on. They boosted the depth of flavor wonderfully.

P.S. It gets better every day!

How about Italian cookies for dessert?

Sesame Seed

Lemon and Ricotta

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe. Thanks!

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Spiralized Zucchini with Fresh Marinara Sauce

The garden tomato, cucumber, and zucchini glut is upon us, and I am driven to distraction figuring out ways to keep up with the produce as it comes in.

My favorite way to prepare the tomatoes is to make a batch of marinara sauce using this recipe from my blog. This is a quick sauce that can be made in the time it takes to boil a pot of water and cook a pound of pasta. The sauce freezes well and is a delight to eat in the middle of winter.

For the cukes, I’ve been making refrigerator pickles. My family adores them. They are especially delicious served over BBQ or hamburgers.

For the abundance of zucchini and summer squash, I’ve been experimenting with a Kitchen Aid spiralizer, and by experimenting, I mean having fun making oodles of zoodles at warp speed.  I spiralized all these varieties of squash in a few minutes

into this:

I’ve spiralized beautiful red and gold beets to add to salads.

I’ve spiralized apples for apple pie.

I’ve spiralized zucchini to make lasagna-sized noodles.

Even at The Nashville Food Project, where I am a volunteer chef, the prep team now spiralizes much of the thousands of pounds of donated zucchini to make fantastic meals like this one.

Spiralizers:

My first spiralizer was this simple-to-use handheld OXO device.

Later, I advanced to this deluxe Kitchen Aid attachment.

 

 

Ingredients:
1 batch of Fresh Marinara Sauce
3 pounds of zucchini (or summer squash)
Reggiano Parmesan cheese

Instructions:
Prepare the marinara sauce as described in the blog post.

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Wash zucchini or squash and cut off blossom tip and stem. Use a spiralizer to create noodles.

Add spiralized noodles to hot marinara sauce in increments. Stir in more noodles as the each batch softens and collapses into the sauce.

Cook zoodles for about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with Reggiano Parmesan cheese and serve.

Other Recipes Using Summer Vegetables and Fruit:
Roasted Ratatouille
Roasted Roma Tomatoes
Roasted Beet Salad
String Bean Salad
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta
Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
50 Ways to Make a Frittata
Ellen’s Most Moist Zucchini Bread
How to Make Grape Jelly (and grow the grapes)
Very Berry Clafoutis

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Rapini and Fettuccini

I love this dish! There is something about taking a bite of mildly bitter sautéed leafy greens, that at first taste says, Not sure about this, and then quickly turns to, Got to have another bite. The bitterness is surprisingly addictive.

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Such is the case when rapini, also known as broccoli rabe, is sautéed with green onions, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes in olive oil and then tossed with fettuccini, lemon juice, and parmesan.

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Rapini is a bitter leafy green found in most grocery stores in the produce section where other greens like escarole and curly endive are found. The leaves, stalks, and florets are all edible and have identical taste levels. When purchasing, look for bright green perky leaves, and florets that haven’t blossomed.

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I like to use freshly made fettuccini noodles with this dish when I can find them. Otherwise, these dried noodles work nicely.

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Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients:
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, smashed and sliced
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and sliced
1 pound bunch of rapini (broccoli rabe), trimmed, peeled, and chopped into 2-inch sections
½ -1 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
juice of one lemon, squeezed over cooked rapini
½-¾ pound package of fettucini noodles
grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese

Mise en Place:
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To prep garlic, flatten cloves with the flat side of a knife and slice into pieces. Do not mince, as garlic is easy to burn when chopped too finely.

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Prep the green onion by trimming the roots. Use a scissor to snip off shriveled or flat leaves as these will likely burn while sautéing.

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To prep rapini, wash the leaves under cool running water. Place stalks on a large cloth towel and pat dry.

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Trim base of stems. Use a pairing knife to peel the stringy, tough skin off of each stem, just as you would for broccoli spears. This will help the stalks cook as quickly as the florets tend to do when placed in a pot of boiling water.

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Next, take a stack of 3 or 4 trimmed rapini stems and chop them into 2-inch segments as shown in the picture below. Continue in this way until all the stems are chopped. If peeling the thin stems is going to be a deal breaker for making this dish, leave the skin on and cut the stems into smaller pieces so they will cook faster when blanched in the pot of boiling water.

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Instructions: 
To cook the rapini and pasta: Bring a pot of water with ½ tablespoon of salt to a boil. We’ll use the same pot of water to cook both the rapini and the pasta.

While waiting for the water to come to a boil, warm olive oil in a large six-quart heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté gently for about 4-5 minutes. Do not allow garlic to brown as browning will cause it to become bitter. Watch carefully and stir frequently. Stir in red pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon of salt. Set aside.

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When the water in the pot comes to a boil, blanch the rapini. To do this, add the rapini and stir. The pile of leaves will quickly collapse into the water as you stir them down.

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As soon as the water returns to a boil, set a timer for one minute and allow the rapini to simmer. After one minute, use a serrated spoon to immediately remove the leaves from the hot water and place in a small bowl. This is called blanching. You do not want to overcook the leaves and florets. We are trying to keep the florets intact and the leaves bright green. Also, save the pot of water to use to cook the fettuccini.

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Use tongs to lift the rapini out of the small amount of water that has collected in the bottom of the bowl, and add it to the onions and garlic in the sauté pan. Cook over low heat, stirring gently, for about one minute, to meld the flavors of the vegetables.

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Bring the pot of water (now full of rapini “liquor”) back to a boil and use it to cook the fettucini. It typically takes only about three minutes to cook the noodles. Read the directions on the package. There is nothing worse in Italian cooking than overcooked, waterlogged pasta. Drain noodles in a colander.

Mix the pasta and vegetables and squeeze the juice of one lemon over all of it. Stir gently.

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Sprinkle fettuccini with lots of Reggiano parmesan before serving.

Technique Tip:

Two things to know about grating cheese: let the cheese come to room temperature before grating, and never hold the cheese with your bare hands because in doing so you might encourage mold to grow on the cheese. Save the cheese rinds in the freezer for soups.

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If you would like to turn this into a more filling meal, add cannellini beans and grilled Italian sausage or roasted chicken to this dish.

PS: Rapini seeds planted today.

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Related Posts:
Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta and Mozzarella
Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers
Italian Pasta and Bean Soup, aka Pasta e Fagioli
Roasted Ratatouille

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Pasta, Mozzarella and Marinara Sauce

When I have gorgeous homegrown heirloom tomatoes sitting on the kitchen counter, I can’t help but try to capture their beauty with photographs.

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Taking photos of tomatoes is what I was doing when my husband came home from work a few nights ago. He was hungry and there was no dinner in sight. He gently asked what we were going to eat. I lied and said I was just getting ready to make a marinara sauce. I asked him to go snip some basil. Marinara sauce only requires tomatoes, garlic, and basil and takes about ten minutes to prepare. I could have it made by the time it took the water to boil and the pasta to cook. Dinner.

Mise en Place:

Yield: 4 cups of sauce

Ingredients for the Marinara Sauce:
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, smashed and sliced (about one small head of garlic)
4 pounds of ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and rough-chopped (about 8-9 cups)
2 teaspoons sea salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or dash of cayenne pepper
15 leaves of basil, stacked and sliced (aka chiffonade)
2 teaspoons sugar (optional- use if tomatoes are acidic)

Ingredients for the Pasta:
8-12 ounces mozzarella, cut into one-inch cubes
1 pound pasta, cooked al dente
Grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese

Instructions:
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While waiting for water to boil, start prepping the vegetables.

Core tomatoes, slice in half (horizontally) and use your index finger to scoop out the seeds from each half. Next, rough-chop the tomatoes into 2-inch chunks. Note: If I have time, I sometimes do the extra step of peeling the tomatoes using the dipping them in boiling water method.

Smash, peel, and rough-chop the garlic.

Stack about 15-20 leaves of basil on a cutting board and slice into ribbons.

Pour the olive oil into a large sauté pan. I use a 6-quart pan. Warm the oil over medium heat and add the garlic. Sauté for about one minute until the garlic just starts to change color. Do not brown the garlic. If you do, discard it and start over.  Add the tomatoes.

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Add salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper.  Cook on medium heat for about 8 – 10 minutes. Turn heat off and stir in basil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Delicious! You could eat with a spoon!

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Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. If all goes according to plan, the pasta, and tomato sauce will be ready about the same time. Add pasta to a serving bowl. Add the mozzarella chunks and marinara sauce. Mix together and serve hot.

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Pass the grated Reggiano Parmesan!

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Here is a marinara sauce I made using only cherry tomatoes. It was sweet and delicious.

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To see which varieties of regular tomatoes I am growing, check out this post and to see which varieties of cherry tomatoes, check this one.

Related Posts on Italian Style Cooked Vegetables
Grandma’s Italian Fried Cauliflower
Pasta e Fagioli, aka Pasta and Bean Soup
Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Asparagus and Chicken
Roasted Ratatouille
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Spiralized Zucchini (aka Zoodles) with Marinara Sauce
Baked Ziti with Eggplant

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.