Peperoni alla Napoletana
Region: Italy, Campania-Naples
Difficulty: Easy but long cooking time
Bell pepper, paprika (a blend of several highly colored, mild red peppers), cayenne pepper, jalapeno, and serrano peppers are all varieties of a single species, Capsicum annuum. They are a New World vegetable first described by a European, Diego Alvarez Chanca, a physician to the fleet in 1494 after Columbus' second voyage. These first peppers encountered by Europeans must have been hot because their piquancy is noted in the early descriptions. The chronicle of Gonzalo Fernandez de Orviedo y Valdes (1478-1537), Historia general y natural de las Indias (General and natural history of the Indies), published in 1526 informs us that the pepper was brought to Italy by the Spanish some years before that date, very probably to Naples from where this recipe originates.
The colorful peppers are blackened first to remove their skins and then tossed with aromatic ingredients before being coated with fresh bread crumbs for a gratin finish. This is a splendid preparation for bell peppers and is most enjoyable served at room temperature.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
Preparation Time: 1:45 hours
1. Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. Grill the peppers until their skins blister black on all sides, about 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel, core, seed, rinse and quarter the peppers. Drain for a few hours or damp-dry with paper towels. Alternatively, place the peppers on a wire rack over a burner on high heat
and roast until their skins blister black on all sides, turning occasionally
with tongs. Remove the peppers and place
in a paper or heavy plastic bag to steam for 20 minutes, which will make them
easier to peel. When cool enough to
handle, rub off as much blackened peel as you can and remove the seeds by
rubbing with a paper towel (to avoid washing away flavorful juices) or by
rinsing under running water (to remove more easily).
2. In a large bowl, toss the peppers with the capers, olives, anchovies, and pine nuts and season with salt.
3. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
4. Lightly oil a 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and fill with the pepper mixture, pushing down to make sure it is compact. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the peppers and lightly drizzle them with the remaining olive oil. Bake until the top is golden, about 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.