Peperonata! (Stewed Peppers, Tomatoes, and Onions)

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 my Sicilian friend Francesco Strazzanti, with the following message, “Peperonata!”

Francesco is a fantastic cook; 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, onions, and tomatoes, I realized I knew exactly what peperonata was — I just never knew it had a name.

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.
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh oregano or the leaves from about 8 stems
¼ cup chopped fresh basil or the leaves from about 6 stems
2 tablespoons fresh mint or the leaves of 4 long stems
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or juice from ½ lemon
¼ – ½ cup plain Greek yogurt swirled in just before serving

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 lemon, honey, mint, and yogurt. He was spot on. They boosted the depth of flavor magnificently.

P.S. It gets better every day!

How about Italian cookies for dessert?

Sesame Seed

Lemon and Ricotta

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© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

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

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

Mrs. Lombard’s Portuguese Kale Soup

If I were to play a word-association game with my brothers about the elderly babysitters we had growing up in the Sixties in Bay View, our beloved, bucolic coastal neighborhood in Massachusetts, it would go like this:

Sting (sic) Bean Casserole”: Mrs. DeMers
She was elderly, gentle, and lived across the road from us. Her voice was thin and wispy just like she.

“Mulligan Stew”: Mrs. Townsend
She and Mr. Towsend were retired, very Irish, and lived next door. It seemed like she always had a pot of mulligan stew simmering on the stove. Mulligan stew is a beef and vegetable stew similar to burgoo. If we got locked out of the house, the Townsends had the spare key.

“Kale Soup”: Mrs. Lombard
Mrs. Lombard was Portuguese, retired, and had buried three husbands by the time she came to live with us as a housekeeper and babysitter. She stayed with us on weekdays and went to her own home on weekends.

She arrived at our house on the heels of many promising live-in sitters who lasted only a few days. Apparently, five children were a lot to manage. Not so for Mrs. Lombard. She drove up our driveway in her silver-green 1953 Chrysler New Yorker land yacht with her strong, solid build and pinned-up long dark hair, fully confident in her ability to wrangle up and care for our large family.

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Mrs. Lombard was tough and her unfiltered comments to us kids and our friends were legendary. For example, my brothers’ socks were so dirty they “stood up by themselves,” and I had “male nails,” short and wide fingernails that would “always be that way.” Sadly, she was right about that. She was our Mrs. Doubtfire. She kept us in line and took care of our hard-working mother, too. The last time I saw her was at my wedding. She was in her nineties. It was lovely to be in her presence, to hear her voice again, and to know she was still full of vim and vigor.

The only meal I remember Mrs. Lombard ever making for us was kale soup, also known as caldo verde (green broth). I can still see the tall Revere soup pot on the stove filled to the brim with knobs of white potatoes bobbing in and out of a sea of dark-green kale. The broth was tinged with orange from the juice of the linguica sausage. I have worked for years to recreate this beautiful, tasty soup and finally figured it out by reading through many versions of it in my mother’s vintage collection of plastic spiral-bound community cookbooks from that geographical area and time period.

Kale Soup

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A few words about ingredients:

The key ingredient in kale soup is a smoke-cured Portuguese sausage called Linguica (lin-gwee-sah). Linguica is made with pork and paprika, garlic, pepper, and sometimes cinnamon, coriander or cumin. There is another Portuguese sausage that is very similar called chouriço (not the same as chorizo, a Mexican sausage). In the absence of linguica, I would use either chouriço or andouille. Or, and I have done this before, use a spicy Italian sausage and make it an Italian Kale Soup.

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I suggest using unsalted chicken broth instead of a salted broth. The linguica brings plenty of saltiness of its own. Too much salt can quickly make this soup go from tasting delicious to tasting like a briny bath of sea water. Carefully add salt to taste.

If you are using a fresh bunch of kale, prepare it the same way I prepped the collards for this recipe only cut the logs of kale into two-inch wide slices. I would not use young leaves of kale as they will disintegrate too quickly when cooked. Some people prefer their caldo verde with collards. That works just as well. Occasionally, I add a half cup of chopped cilantro or parsley to the soup during the last minute of cooking, for more flavor and to make the broth greener.

Lastly, many cooks from our area of the southeastern coast of Massachusetts add a pound of lima beans to the soup. I enjoy that, as well, but I’ve come to prefer the simple and pure flavor of just the kale, potatoes and sausage.

Yield: 4 quarts

Ingredients:
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⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound linguica smoked sausage, sliced (sold locally at Publix)
1 medium onion (2 cups or ½ pound), peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed and sliced
4 large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 5 cups or 2 pounds), unpeeled
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups unsalted chicken broth
4 cups hot water
1 pound kale, chopped into 2-inch pieces (could substitute collards)
Add more sea salt and black pepper to taste
½ cup cilantro or parsley, chopped (optional)

Mise en Place:

Rinse and dry linguica sausages. Slice into bite-sized pieces.
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Prep onions and garlic as described and set aside. Prep potatoes into bite-sized chunks and set aside. Gold potatoes hold their shape better than white potatoes and have a nice buttery taste, so I suggest using them.

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Instructions:

Coat bottom of a six-quart sauté pan with olive oil. Add linguica to warmed oil and sauté for about three minutes on medium-high heat. Avoid overcooking the linguica which makes it leathery and tasteless.

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Use a serrated spoon to remove sausage into a small bowl. Set aside meat.

Add onions and garlic into the linguica flavored oil that remains. Sauté for five minutes over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent.

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Add the potatoes, broth, salt, and crushed red pepper. Bring broth to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for ten minutes.

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Remove 1 cup of potatoes and 1 cup of broth from the pan and put them in a food processor. Purée for about 15 seconds until mixture is smooth. Set aside.

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Add four cups of hot water to the potatoes in the sauté pan and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, add about half the kale to the pan. Stir it down. As the kale collapses, continuing adding more kale until it all fits in the pan. Add the puréed potatoes and the linguica and stir everything together.

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Simmer for about 15 minutes on low heat. The soup will taste equally delicious the next day. I’ve never tried freezing it.

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Serve with a nice crusty bread.

Other great soups:
Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs
Sick Soup, Sometimes Known as Snow Day Soup
Kelly’s Duck Stew
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie

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

Roasted Roma Tomatoes

Sometimes, you need a little color on the plate when planning a menu for a dinner party. Such was the case when my sewing group got together recently for our annual dinner party.

Fortunately, one of our friends excels at menu planning and volunteered to organize the meal and divvy up the jobs. I was tasked with making roasted tomatoes for twenty. While I have sautéed tomatoes for marinara sauce, puréed them for gazpachoand sliced them for salads, I have never cooked them as a side dish. The challenge was on.

I was a little worried about finding flavorful tomatoes in the middle of winter. I went to Whole Foods and asked an employee in the produce department which tomato she thought was the most flavorful. I loved her response: she pulled out her paring knife and said, “Let’s see.” We tried three different tomatoes, and the Romas won out.dsc_0209

After considering various ways to prepare them, I did what came naturally to me: I tossed them in olive oil, sea salt, and garlic pepper and roasted them. Clean and simple.

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Ingredients:

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30 Roma tomatoes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon McCormick’s Garlic Pepper
1½ teaspoons sea salt
7 or 8 stems Italian flat-leafed parsley or basil, stems removed
balsamic vinegar to drizzle

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425º
Line two roasting pans with parchment paper

Prep tomatoes: cut each tomato in half, lengthwise. Cut out the stem and use your index finger to remove the seeds.

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Place tomato halves inside a bowl, add the olive oil, salt, and garlic pepper. Toss well to coat evenly.

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Place each tomato half on baking sheet.

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Roast tomatoes for 1 to 1¼ hours. After 30 minutes, rotate pans in the oven. Cooking them this long will draw out their natural sweetness and flavor.

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Place tomatoes on a serving platter, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and snipped parsley or basil leaves, for garnish. Serve at room temperature.

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For a few other colorful sides, try these:
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Sautéed Collards (or Swiss Chard) with Cranberries and Toasted Pine Nuts
Roasted Acorn Squash with Applesauce and Cinnamon
Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Cranberries

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

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

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