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Piedmontese Peppers

January 12, 2010
By Wendy Monro

Snow days are the best excuse for not leaving the house. I love being a home body: sleeping in late, living in jim jams (that's what we call pajamas), and getting around to brushing my hair at noon. A friend asked if I missed my life in sunny California. My response was, "not a chance, I love the seasons." We never had snow days in California. I especially take delight in watching the excitement on the faces of my children when they discover that there is no school. Jack bursts into dance and sings a "no school today" song. We tend to cook amazing meals when we are stuck inside as well.

Lately, my recipes have included rich and hearty stews, cheese sauces, and red meats. I love these types of dishes for cold winter days. Now, I know it seems crazy with all of this snow on the ground, but swimsuit season is right around the corner. So, I plan to lighten up my dishes a bit in order to have any hope of wearing something reasonable this summer on the lake.

I don't like the idea of dieting. To me, diet is a four letter word because I love food so much. I know I have to move a lot more if I am going to eat rich cheesy buttery meals. I also have to eat healthier low fat meals as well (everything in moderation). Once the temperature reaches a level above zero, I plan on walking for at least a half an hour each day. I tried this the other day and only made it to the mail box, hence my rule for warmer temperatures. I felt like I could lose a limb or my nose in that weather.

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This salad recipe is lighter and healthier than my recent dishes. It is healthy in spite of being delectable. You eat it because it tastes so good, not because it's low in calories. This salad has been a big hit in my family. It is the perfect starter or main course for any season. Years ago, Claud and I were having my parents over for dinner and he made these peppers for everyone. They are called Piedmontese Peppers and they were a huge hit. I fell in love with how delicious they taste and how simple they were to make. I have been making them ever since. I changed the original recipe a bit (taking out the anchovies and adding cilantro) and turned it into a salad.

Before I wrote this article, I thought I should look for more information about Piedmontese Peppers. So, I Googled it. I wanted to see where Piedmont was located and what history I could discover about this type of pepper cooking. I learned two amazing facts.

First, I'm glad I Googled it, because I thought Piedmont was in France. No, it is in Italy. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I discovered that Piedmont cuisine is French-influenced and always freshly prepared. A typical Piedmontese meal consists of at least six courses. That's my kind of meal. Also, quality is the big issue in Piedmontese cooking. So, time and effort spent on preparation don't count as long as the result is satisfying. I love that food there is really a passion.

Fact Box

Piedmontese Pepper Salad

2 red bell peppers

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4 roma tomatoes

3 C. olive oil

1 bunch of cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

1 loaf French bread

Baby Arugula (or lettuce of your choice)

4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the peppers lengthwise through the stem. Cut out seeds. Place into an oven safe dish.

Divide the garlic into each pepper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour in half of the olive oil. Place a tomato inside each pepper. Sprinkle more salt and pepper. Drizzle the rest of the oil over the peppers and into the dish.

Place in oven and cook for two hours. Baste every thirty minutes.

Take out of oven and cool. Place a bed of lettuce on the plate. Toast the bread. Slice the bread and place on the lettuce. Place one pepper and tomato onto the bread. Cut it open so the juices pour onto the bread and lettuce. Drizzle with vinegar and oil from the dish. Keep the rest of the oil to use later. Enjoy.

The Piedmontese take their time over meals, and love to spend hours with family and friends around the dining table. This is what I am trying to promote. Also, in Piedmont, wine is always part of the meal and is enjoyed reverently. That's what I'm talking about. I have to go there.

Second, my research led me to another amazing fact. Simon Hopkinson was pretty much the guy who made Piedmontese Peppers famous in England at a restaurant in London called Bibendum. I think I believed Piedmont was in France because Bibendum is a French restaurant. Claud was an apprentice for Hopkinson at Bibendum and this is where Simon taught Claud how to make these peppers. So, I have learned from the man who learned from the man...amazing.

You will not believe how delicious they are. It only takes about ten minutes to prepare them. Then, they go into the oven for a couple of hours. The result is a sweet, tangy and juicy delight. The olive oil and the juices from the tomatoes combine with balsamic vinegar make a savory dressing. I top all of this onto a warm open faced baguette and a bed of lettuce to create a salad. You can add some grilled chicken and feta cheese to make it into a main course. Don't forget to pour the remaining olive oil into a jar to use for cooking later. The peppery flavored olive oil is great for sauting, dressings, and sauces. Please visit my blog to watch me make this salad in a video:

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