This recipe brings to mind a trip to the Amalfi Coast, a fearless driver named Sal and a tiny, hidden osteria with the most unbelievable view and peperonata salad. Sal was our fast-talking driver. He propelled us along the winding, cliff-hugging turns of the the Amalfi coastline while we, my husband and our daughters, sat white-knuckled and gaping at the breathtaking beauty of the place – with one eye on the panic-inducing plunge to the cliffs below.
Sal was a man of many talents. He was a gifted tour guide who had grown up in Sorrento and he had a backstory for everything and everyone. He was adept at navigating one-lane, hairpin turns while talking on his flip phone and playing chicken with tour buses. It was usually the tour bus that backed up when we faced off in our little Fiat on a blind turn, like David and Goliath. Sal, the nativo, knew all the best little out of the way stops, “secret” vistas and the tastiest places for simple, fresh, home cooked dishes. These were usually his friend’s places; Sal had a lot of friends.
One particularly memorable lunch was at a tiny osteria, well, ostensibly an osteria – I actually think it was the balcony of the home of one of Sal’s paisano. The lunch was simple and perfect, as meals in beautiful, faraway settings often are, set high on a rustic, arbor covered balcony overlooking the sea. Lunch was freshly made strands of pasta with a light and delicate sauce of fresh tomatoes, a plate of cheese and a colorful “peperonata salad” of fresh picked peppers, eggplant and tomatoes from terrace pots, gently sautéed in a dark and fruity olive oil with an abundance of fresh herbs. We also had carafes of cold, flinty local white wine (we weren’t driving after all, but I did have to wonder how much of that wine our driver enjoyed during his lunchtime chiacchiere…) We finished the long, lazy afternoon meal with a jumpstart of tart lemon ice, made from lemons the size of footballs that grew on the tree we were sitting under. It was a most perfect lunch in a most perfect place. This peperonata is my ode to Sal (who ferried us safely), and to passing a lovely afternoon somewhere between Amalfi and Ravello, Italian style. (You can see our travelogue photos at the bottom of this post.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ sweet onion, sliced into thin wedges
- 10 small, sweet red, yellow and orange peppers, trimmed, seeded and sliced into strips
- 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 cups multicolored cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 3 dried figs, chopped into little pieces
- 1.4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1-2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, shredded
- In a large pan, heat the olive oil over high heat. Toss in the onion, peppers and carrots and sauté until the peppers are blistered and the carrots and onion begin to soften. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and stir until softened. Add the tomatoes and chopped figs and sauté until tomatoes are soft and release their juices, about 5 minutes. Add the basil, parsley, Balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with Parmesan cheese and serve over chicken, with potatoes or by itself.