15 September 2011

My Italian Wish List

Peperoni drying in Senise
 Peperoni cruschi

Italian food has always been my favorite and there are many dishes from Italy that I really enjoy. Trying to pick just one is difficult as I love to eat and I have been blessed by a wonderful wife who is una bella cuoca. One thing is certain; the foods of Basilicata top my “wish list”.

Meals and dishes in Italy are different than “American Italian” food in many ways – the ingredients, the portion size, the combinations and many of the flavors. Most of what places like The Olive Garden have on their menu you won’t find in Italy.

What Italians eat varies by the location…seafood predominates by the sea, polenta in the north, hearty meat dishes in the mountains, spicy in the south and fresh up and down the boot. Usually what is available within 100 miles makes up most dishes for an area (bacala/cod being the glaring exception).

Dried peperoni

The one dish that is unique and delicious, that I sometimes crave, is the simple Lucanian dish called peperoni cruschi. This dish is so simple that it only involves three ingredients and can be prepared in a few minutes. Peperoni in Italian are peppers and peperoni cruschi is a dish of fried dried sweet red peppers. Dried, lightly fried in olive oil and sprinkled with salt – always best eaten immediately. You eat them like candy and they are addictive.

In Basilicata they are commonly a part of an antipasto or crushed and added to pasta dishes. A common topping for pasta with peperoni cruschi is mollica di pane. I have even had them in Laurenzana on a pizza. All of these are included on my “wish list”.

The peperoni for this originate from the area around Senise and the valle del Sinni but peperoni cruschi are popular in Campania, Calabria and Basilicata. So next time you are visiting one of these areas be sure to ask for some peperoni cruschi with your antipasto.

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