Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Vince's Crazy Good Hot Peppers!


I've known my brother-in-law, Vince, for over 20 years. In all that time I can't recall a day a pan of his famous hot peppers were not in his refrigerator, or a time they were not part of a family gathering's buffet table. For more years I am embarrassed to admit, I avoided them for fear they were just too hot and spicy to enjoy. I have come to realize they are incredibly delicious (in spite of their heat) and surprisingly versatile.  As for the heat, sometimes they are really hot and difficult to enjoy (my husband and dad love them this way), but most times just spicy enough to excite the tongue.  And frankly, the degree of heat can be easily controlled by the choice and combination of peppers and/or by removing the seeds and ribs of the hottest varieties.

I struggled with what to call this dish. Vince voiced the same concern. Though a side dish for sure the peppers aren't typically eaten as is but rather enjoyed as an incredible flavor enhancer to any number of roasted or grilled meats. To call it a relish would put it in the condiment category or something to dress hot dogs or burgers. Though they would indeed elevate the taste of either of those, the dish's more commanding taste and overall versatility requires them to have a more elevated title. 'Peperonata', which is typically a sauteed mixture of sweet or mild peppers, tomatoes and other veggies served as a dip or bruschetta topping, most closely resembles Vince's pepper dish. But, here again, it does not properly convey their versatility or define the spicy hot character of the dish.

These are delicious either hot just off the stove, at room temperature or even cold right out of the refrigerator. More importantly, they can be used in a wide variety of ways. They make a great Italian style appetizer served among other hot and cold dishes. Use them to kick up the flavor layered into sandwiches, and simply delicious paired with some strong cheese, a few slices of ripe, homegrown tomatoes sandwiched between good mutli-grain bread. Or, try them sauteed with some beaten eggs and grated Parmesan cheese to make a spicy, savory frittata. For a slightly different version, heat up a portion of the peppers, break a few eggs into the mixture and let the eggs cook among the peppers. They are also quite wonderful as a spicy sauce over hot, cooked pasta. Add some quickly sauteed Italian sausage and you have a hearty entree. Or, to turn bland into spicy, add them to sauteed chicken breasts (or pork chops) with a bit of chicken broth and serve over rice.

Vince makes a large amount quite often and uses them throughout the week. He prefers to make the dish really hot, but acknowledges sometimes the peppers identified as "hot" in the stores are not as hot when cooked up. In making this dish for the first time for this blog I used a mixture of hot Hungarian peppers and hot jalapeno peppers (seeds and ribs removed) along with an almost equal amount of sweet banana, green and sweet Italian red peppers. The end result, to my disappointment, was not hot at all, but still incredibly delicious.

In terms of measurements, use the size of the skillet you plan to use as your guide to ingredient amounts. I used my Calphalon 12 inch everyday pan which, as you will see, holds a large amount of vegetables. I used appoximately 12-14 medium to large peppers and based on that total adjusted the quantities of the other vegetables. I used zucchini in this recipe, but yellow squash is just as good and I would consider adding chunks of eggplant for variety. The hardest part of preparing this dish was cutting up the hot peppers. Remember to cut them in a well ventilated room and to wash your hands and utensils thoroughly, being careful not to touch your eyes.

Vince's Crazy Good Hot Peppers!

The Peppers:
Hungarian peppers or a mixture of hot style peppers that may include jalapeno peppers, plus a variety of sweet peppers selecting ones that will provide a nice mixture of colors to the dish such as red, yellow or orange and dark green peppers. Cut up all hot and sweet peppers into large pieces removing seeds and ribs to lessen the heat. For small to medium sized Hungarian or Banana peppers cut in half. For very large ones cut into quarters. 

Good olive oil - I used Kirkland brand
Ariosto brand Italian seasoning (contains salt) or Italian seasoning plus salt
6-8 cloves of garlic, cut into medium size chunks
4-5 green onions, cut into 1-2 inch pieces using both white and green parts
one zucchini, sliced into circles, half circles if zucchini is large
large handful of Italian parsley, large chop
1/2 lb. mushrooms cut into large pieces or left whole if small
about a cup of tomato puree - Vince uses Pomi brand

Notice size of cut pieces
Cut up all vegetables before you begin to saute.

In a small skillet saute the mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil till their liquid has evaporated. Take off the heat and set aside. 

In another but large (generous 12 inch) skillet coat the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil. Sprinkle the oil with a generous amount (about 1-2 tsp.) of the Ariosto seasoning. Now place all of the hot and sweet peppers in the pan. Turn on the heat to high and begin to cook the peppers turning occasionally and watching carefully to make sure peppers are browning but not burning. 

When peppers just begin to very slightly soften, add the garlic, green onion pieces, the zucchini, cooked mushrooms and parsley. Mix together and cook a few more minutes. Now add the tomato puree and finish cooking till all vegetables are tender but not too soft or mushy.

1 comment:

  1. These would be great with a frittata right about now.