Cooking with Hurricane Irma, Part II: Pipérade

Pipérade snuck into my life the other day. I mean, I’d known about this universal – global? – combo of tomatoes and garlic and onion and other stuff for some time. Hardly the sort of dish you’d let any culinary culture lay claim to. I mean, come on, what else might a cook do with garlic, onions, tomatoes, peppers, salt at the end of the growing season? Except throw them all together in oil and toss in a few spices such as cumin or oregano or thyme or maybe some chile (chilli) peppers? This is not an unusual combination. No, and any cook worth her or his salt (salary, of course) would know what to do. Serve this saucy combination with meat or toasted bread and eggs. You can call it Basque, yes, but you can call it a lot of things. It’s not just Middle Eastern or European, for it actually forms the basis of Creole Sauce, of which is so much is made in the American South, where culinary inheritance still needs strong reckoning and less mythology.

Oh, and pipérade traces it roots to the Basque region of France, but – seriously – it doesn’t begin or end there.

Easy Pipérade

Makes about 2 cups

3 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 green bell pepper, deseeded and finely chopped

1/2 of a medium yellow onion, peeled and  finely chopped

3 fat garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 large fresh tomatoes, or 14.5 ounce can

1 t. piment d’Espelette or 1 t. Hungarian paprika and 1/4 t. cayenne

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Turn up the heat to medium high and cook the onions/peppers until slightly browned and golden, maybe 6-8 minutes.  Toss in the garlic and let cook for only about 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes, the piment d’Esplette, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook another 15 minutes over low heat, or until mixture thickens. Run it through a blender or food processor until it still remains slightly chunky.

This all-purpose concoction can be called upon – with the help of a can of tomato sauce – makes a reasonably authentic Shakshuka, though the version in the photo below includes the blasphemy of chopped deli ham.

Use pipérade in scrambled eggs, omelettes, a sauce for grilled meats, spooned over (and stirred into) any pasta, on toasted bread with grilled cheese on top, added to soups, and even as a sauce for fried fish fillets.

You get the picture and don’t need a fancy Food Network article to point you in the right direction … .

And what’s really cool about this? You can freeze pipérade in jars in your freezer.

A taste of the end of summer there for the taking on a January afternoon. Just think of that!

(I’m awaiting the eye of Hurricane Irma. Cooking keeps me sane in the face of the coming insanity.)

© 2017 C. Bertelsen

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