Dinner on a too hot day (peperonata)

Here’s a wholesome and satisfying dinner idea for a too-hot day like today (31°C!). Make peperonata, but make it outside, using your grill (BBQ) as a flat-top. Even better — make it the day before.

Peperonata in progress (on the grill/BBQ)

Peperonata is basically stewed sweet peppers. It’s an Italian dish that is similar to ratatouille, except that it uses sweet peppers instead of zucchini and eggplant. There is no single “authentic” recipe. Like ratatouille, it’s as flexible as you want it to be. (For example, I used zucchini in my recipe, below, just because I had some and I though it might thicken it up a bit.) You can eat it hot, cold, or at room temperature (preferred).

You can have it straight up as an appetizer (antipasti), or you can have it with couscous, or tossed with pasta. Today’s recipe uses room-temperature peperonata tossed with hot, freshly cooked pasta to create a warm (not hot) and satisfying dinner for a hot day. Note that you can cook the peperonata a day in advance if you know a stinker is on the horizon.

Blork’s Peperonata with Rigatoni

Makes enough for two mains, or four appetizers.

Suggested Ingredients:

  • 3 sweet peppers of varying colors (I used red, orange, and yellow) seeded and cut into strips (about 1/2 inch wide)
  • 1/3 of a big sweet onion (fresh white, vidalia, or red), cut into 1/4-inch thick slices (3 or 4 rounds)
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch thick half-moons (optional)
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 big fat tomato (or 2 small ones), seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 handful of fresh herbs chopped (I used thyme, chives, parsley, and basil) — you can also use assorted dry herbs if you don’t have fresh, but go light and add them earlier
  • Olive oil, salt, and pepper

Method:

  1. Spark up your gas grill (or, as we call it in Canada, your BBQ). Light enough burners to heat a 10-inch saucepan. Warm the pan to medium heat.
  2. Drizzle a good few glugs of olive oil in the pan and add the onion. It should be at a low to moderate sizzle. If it’s too hot, lower the burners. Sauté for 2 or 3 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini and sauté for 3 or 4 minutes.
  4. Add the peppers and the garlic, and salt & pepper to taste. Sauté for about 5 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer (covered), stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes. It should not dry out (if it looks like it’s drying out, lower the heat and add a few spoons of water).
  5. By now the peppers should be soft but still holding their shape.  Tip in the chopped tomatoes and simmer (covered) for another 15 minutes.
  6. When everything is pretty soft (but not mushy) and the tomatoes have mostly dissolved into a nice sauce, tip in the chopped herbs and remove from the heat.

Finished peperonata, ready to eat!

At this point you can let it cool and stick it in the fridge for tomorrow, or simply let it come to room temperature while you cook some pasta (rigatoni is suggested by the Blork Board of Appropriate Pasta).

Toss the room-temperature peperonata with the hot (drained but not rinsed) rigatoni. A light dusting of Parmesano Reggiano is nice, but not necessary. Serve with a chilled Pino Grigio and a crispy salad.

10 thoughts on “Dinner on a too hot day (peperonata)

  1. Looks awesome! I’d be tempted to simply drop a few dollops on a chunk of bread. Hey, were you guys out of town for a bit? How’d that go?

  2. Looks great but am wondering why the peperonata should be served at room temperature rather than piping hot of the pan.

  3. Harry, in the end, that’s pretty much what we did. Too hot to cook pasta today, so we “toasted” some big hunks of bread in a pan with some butter and olive oil, and spooned the peperonata on top.

    ITS, that’s a good question. You CAN eat it hot, but there are a lot of very subtle flavors and textures that come out a bit more when it’s at room temperature.

    Also, this dish is something that is traditionally cooked up in a big batch and then eaten over the course of a few days (or is made in advance of a feast because it’s easier). It’s closest cousin is simply roasted peppers, which one usually eats in a salad or as an antipasti. It’s not a hard rule, it’s just tradition. (And today, because it’s unbearably hot, it’s nice to have a cool dinner.)

  4. Yum! I just searched “hot day dinners” and your blog was the first search return. Perfect!

  5. It’s too hot to spend 30 minutes outside, can I make this on the stove inside my air-conditioned apartment? Other n00bish questions:

    – What’s a crispy salad? Overcooked lettuce?
    – Where’s the meat????

  6. Donal, “crispy salad” is fried rashers on potato chips. The meat comes in the double-cheese and pepperoni takeaway pizza you eat while the peperonata is cooking.

    ;-)

  7. Ah… one of the first recipe I learned! I was told it is algerian. I used to put tabasco sauce in the recipe but, apparently tabasco is infamous among cooks. Arabs put harissa in it instead and will sometimes eat it with a big loaf of bread. Quite effective if you are constipated.

  8. ed,
    isaw you post ages ago about modifying the wordpress connections theme…did you ever get anywhere with that and do you remember the most useful colours/fonts bits to change?

    many thanks

  9. Mark, I’m using a modified Connections theme on the Montreal Burger Report site (http://montrealburger.wordpress.com) That was a while back, so I don’t remember the exact nature of the changes. I think it was mostly about colors, column width, and the header. I’m no designer, so I can’t take any pride in the result. The main thing is I wanted a custom header and for it to look a bit different from the stock “Connections” theme.

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