The pepper harvest is over and I’m now in a rush to explore the multitude of recipes that use both sweet and hot peppers. I’ve roasted some of the peppers, smoked some, frozen some, and stuffed some. This recipe uses a mix of sweet and hot peppers as a “Peperonata” (an Italian dish of sweet peppers, onion, and garlic slow-cooked in olive oil) to top off a grilled hamburger. My husband is experimenting with the ghost peppers, but so far they have been way too hot for me. I grew them, but I think I’ll let someone else eat them and cook with them!
What is Peperonata?
As noted above, Peperonata (peh-peh-roh-NAH-tah) is an Italian vegetable dish of slow-cooked, or stewed bell peppers with onion and garlic. Of course there are variations and some Italian cooks will add tomatoes, eggplant, or other Italian vegetables. It’s sometimes served with a frittata, steak, chicken, or over pasta. It is often served cold as part of antipasti.
The simplest way to make Peperonata is to cook 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1/2 sliced onion in 1/4 cup of olive oil over low heat for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add 5 bell peppers that are quartered and of different colors and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the bell peppers are soft.
Since I have an abundance of different pepper varieties, I wanted to try a mix of hot, mild and sweet peppers. I also wanted to make it more of a main dish to have with hamburger, as I no longer eat bread or pasta. Fine Cooking had a recipe in a back issue that looked really good and included the sour notes of capers and anchovies. The recipe below is an adaptation of a recipe from the 2004 October issue of Fine Cooking.
A Note on Hamburger:
If you want the tastiest burger, buy some with at least 20 percent fat. If I buy hamburger from the grocery store I look for “chuck” burger that is an 80-20% burger to fat ratio. My mom cooked in a time when all fat was considered bad and meat was to be cooked a long time for safety, so she will make burgers with very lean meat and cook them to well done. There is an abundance of scientific studies out there about good fats/bad fats/animal fats/etc. It is really difficult to make good health decisions because for every study that tells you about a particular nutritional fact, there is a study available that will refute that fact. Whatever your sentiments are about fat, I can tell you one thing……the burger has a whole lot more flavor with more fat in it.
Peperonata Topped Hamburgers:
(adapted from a recipe in 2004 issue of Fine Cooking)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 to 2 lbs assorted peppers, sweet bell to hot chili peppers
- 1 cup roughly chopped onion
- 1/2 lb. mushrooms, any kind you like (I just used button)
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup pitted shopped Kalamata olives
- 1/4 cup pitted chopped green olives
- 3 Tbsp capers, drained and chopped
- 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp anchovy paste or 2 anchovies, minced
- salt & pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet or saute pan over high heat.
- Stem and seed the peppers and cut into 1/2 inch dice. Add the peppers and chopped onions to the pan and saute, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for another 5 minutes, or until vegetables start to brown. **NOTE: if you want to take the time to roast peppers and remove skins, it does make this dish better, particularly if you are using a lot of bell peppers with thick skin. I usually just chop fresh peppers with skins on because I’m always short of time. It’s still really good.
- Click here for a thorough explanation of how to roast peppers.
- Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking until the onions are translucent and the peppers and mushrooms are extremely soft (about another 15 minutes). Add the garlic and saute quickly being careful not to burn the garlic (only needs about 30 seconds).
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the olives, capers, vinegar, and anchovies. Stir in more olive oil to make the peperonata moist and oily.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper and add a little more vinegar if needed. Serve over a hamburger, grilled to medium rare (or to your own taste).
- Peperonata can be refrigerated and served later with chicken, on top of baguette toasts, or as an antipasti.