I am a sucker for sottolii and sottaceto, i.e. all things (generally vegetarian ) preserved in vinegar or oil : with a hunk of bread & some cheese I could easily lunch on them every day.
These sour sweet peppers are amongst my favourites: quick and easy, not too sharp, excellent to eat and beautiful to look at. The brine is light and aromatic because it is made with vinegar and white whine, olive oil, spices and touch of sugar. I never bother to can them: I keep them in the fridge and use them in two to three weeks. Summer and early Autumn, when peppers are at their best, would be the ideal time to make these, but this recipe works also with the the rather dull Dutch peppers I find here all year round – somehow, to open the fridge and find a jar of these glowing peppers, in the height of winter, cheers me up.
The recipe comes from a little book of mine, published many years ago now, called Pausa Pranzo: come stare lontani dai bar e vivere felici (Lunch Break: how to stay away from coffee bars and be happy) – all about lunch break food/bento box style light lunches
Peperoni in agrodolce – sour sweet peppers
1 kg mixed yellow, red and orange peppers, washed and cut into large wedges 200 ml white wine (nothing fancy, of course); dry white vermouth can be used too
200 ml white wine vinegar
1 espresso cup of extravergin olive oil
100 g sugar
a pinch of salt
1 fresh bay leaf, 1 fresh sage leaf, 1 sprig of rosemary, a couple of sprigs of thyme
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly mashed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Mix the wine, vinegar oil, sugar, salt, herbs, garlic and pepper corns in a heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered for 5 minutes.
Add the cut up peppers, and cook on high heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool them down without removing the lid: I tend to make them in the evening so that they are ready by the morning.
Pour into a jar and refrigerate.
Few slivers of these peppers can transform the simplest mixed green salad into something much more appetising and they star in the beautiful Neapolitan cauliflower salad, called insalata di rinforzo , which literally means “re-inforced salad”: the idea being that the basic cauliflower salad is then re-inforced (and made tastier) by adding other bits, pickles, olives, sun dried tomatoes ecc…This salad is traditionally prepared for Christmas, but I think it is too good to limit it to that time of the year
Insalata di rinforzo – Neapolitan cauliflower and pickle salad
Steam some cauliflower florets until al dente and lay them on a kitchen cloth – they will soften further as they could down. When they feel drier but still hot, pace them in a large platter and dress them liberally with extra virgin olive oil, a little white wine vinegar and some salt. It is important to dress the vegetables whilst still hot: the flavour is really thus amplified.
Let them cool down completely. Add stoned green and black olives, slivers of sun dried tomatoes, slivers of the above sour sweet pepper, capers. few cut up cornichons and some of these gorgeous quickly pickled red onions from Deborah Madison’s The Greens Cook book.
Finish off the salad with chopped parsley and chopped chives.
Let it rest at room temperature for an hour or so, to give all the ingredients a change to get to know each other well.
As you can see in one of the pictures, I have also used the peppers to decorate some old fashioned stuffed eggs (one of my favourite party food)
The Cauliflower salad picture is from my restaurant days, but I still make it the same way