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Rainbows, edible and not

June 9, 2010

I don’t know why it took me so long to hear about peperonata, the Italian dish of stewed bell peppers and onions. It has all the sweet, soft appeal of roasted peppers, without the trouble of turning on the oven or peeling off the charred skin: you just slice a lot of peppers and onions, cook in olive oil over low heat for a while, then season with salt and pepper and vinegar. Some versions include tomatoes or other spices. But it’s incredibly simple, and very tasty.

I think I first encountered the term in the archives of Roots and Grubs; it failed to ring any bells at the time, but then I was searching for something to top some Trader Joe’s pizza dough, and happened to notice that Stone Hearth Pizza offers a peperonata pizza. So I didn’t make the pizza dough myself (lame, I know, but it’s a step up from English muffin pizzas), and I didn’t even come up with using peperonata as a topping, but at least I had the sense to recognize a good idea.

I found this recipe on Epicurious, which has got to be the most basic peperonata recipe out there, but I figured that was a fine place to start. I substituted three sprigs of thyme for the rosemary, in honor of the little potted thyme plant in my pantry window, which I intend to use as much as I can before I leave in two weeks (yikes!). They didn’t impart a strong flavor to the finished dish, but they did look pretty.

After cooking gently for 40 minutes, the peppers were thoroughly wilted, the onions ever so slightly browned. I sprinkled sea salt and black pepper, then added a good dash of balsamic vinegar, a perfect foil to the vegetables’ natural sweetness. I happily devoured a few forkfuls, savoring the contrast of sugar and acid, then resigned myself to saving the rest for the pizza.

I almost wish I hadn’t. The pizza was fine, I guess, but the peperonata was perfect, and it would have been better matched with some polenta or fresh crusty bread. And I’ve read all about the difficulties of making decent pizza at home, and I haven’t even gone to the trouble of getting a pizza stone or some unglazed tiles, so I’m not really allowed to complain if the crust is a little pale and unimpressive.

Actually, the bottom of the crust was very nicely browned and crisp, but I hadn’t been able to roll the dough out thin enough to get that texture all the way through, and I didn’t want to cook much longer for fear of burning the bottom. Maybe next time I’ll finish with a few minutes under the broiler. And I don’t know if this is true of all pizza dough or just Trader Joe’s, but man, that stuff is elastic. I roll and roll, but it keeps springing back into a lump, and I can never get the edges thin enough. Sigh. Maybe pizza will have to be one of those foods I deliberately never master, so I can continue to enjoy it in restaurants without thinking of how I could have made it cheaper/better/fresher myself.

On a brighter note, here is the rainbow that followed me home from work. Two rainbows, actually; there’s a fainter one to the left of the obvious one. (Fear not, traffic-safety mavens: I took this picture while paused at a long stoplight.)

When I got home, I ran to the end of the street to catch one more glimpse of the rainbow (there are too many trees right around the house to see much sky. Alas, poor me). It was nearly faded by then, but you can sort of see it there, tucked between house and tree.

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