One summer, our parents took us to Les Landes for a month, in the southwestern part of France, by the Atlantic Ocean. It was a summer of smelling the tall and dense pine forests, admiring the grounds covered with ferns, climbing the huge dunes of fine white sand and playing with the forceful rolling waves, most famous for surfing. All unfamiliar topography and vegetation compared to our Provençal surroundings. Our eyes were wide-open with curiosity and our taste buds were delighting in exciting new dishes. In the evening we would wander by the colorful and fragrant freshly picked peppers and tomatoes at the outdoor markets and prepare the local specialty of Piperade. It was such a delicious combination of flavors as the vegetables were in their prime, we wanted to savor it every night!
Yesterday morning, as I discovered what our weekly CSA delivery held from Tomato Mountain, these memories instantly permeated at the sight of onions, peppers, garlic and tomatoes. I couldn’t wait to recreate those scents and tastes reminiscent of a joyful childhood discovery.
The variety of vegetables grown in the Midwest is different from my original introduction to Piperade in Les Landes, nevertheless just as delectable. So feel free to adjust ingredients based on what’s available from your local market.
- 3 yellow Aura peppers
- 2 Carmen sweet peppers
- 5 Capperino mildly hot peppers
- 5 medium size tomatoes
- 1 extra large white onion (about 500 g/ 1 lb)
- 1 extra large garlic clove
- 5 Tbps extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh thyme and bay leaves
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Wash the yellow Aura peppers, cut in half, remove the core, seeds and white flesh, and thinly slice each half. Reserve.
Wash the Carmen sweet peppers, cut in half, remove the core, seeds and white flesh, and thinly slice each half. Reserve. Wash the Capperino peppers, cut in half, remove the core, seeds and white flesh, and thinly slice each half. Reserve.
Wash the herbs and garlic clove without peeling it. Peel the large white onion and cut in half. Thinly slice each half by hold down the root end. Discard the roots.
Heat the olive oil in a cast iron French oven. Add the onions and reduce the heat. Place the herbs and garlic on top.
Arrange the sliced peppers as the top layer and cover with a lid. Cook on low heat for about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile wash and cut the tomatoes in quarters. Remove the hard green part attached to the stem and discard. Slice each quarter into smaller pieces.
After the onion and peppers have cooked for about 15 minutes, add the tomatoes as the last layer. Seasson with salt and pepper and cover with a lid. Cook over low heat for another 20-25 minutes. Then remove the lid, and the vegetables will have shrunk.
Take the herbs and garlic out with a fork. Discard the herbs. You may keep the garlic for spreading on bread or crackers with a little butter as it will have become creamy inside. Mix the vegetables with a wooden spoon to combine the flavors.
Serve hot or cold, either immediately or let sit to further infuse the flavors. Delicious on its own or with some eggs scrambled with red pepper flakes.