Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sausage and Peppers

My dad used to talk of opening a sausage and pepper stand.  He'd make his fortune that way, selling only one thing, cooked and flavored to perfection.  No fancy packaging necessary, no exotic ingredients needed.  Just really good food.

My parents always made sausage and peppers to be eaten in a roll: they left the sausages whole, and added layers of sauteed onions and green bell peppers.  My critique of this presentation was that the sausages would slide across the roll and splurt out one end or another, usually to land in my lap by way of the front of my shirt.

Several grease stains and many years later, I had dinner at my cousin's house before going to a show, and she told me over the phone she'd make me a little sausage and peppers.  She served it to me in a bowl, with clear evidence of TOMATOES in the dish, and no roll in sight.  I felt sorry for her, not knowing how to make sausage and peppers and all.

As I ate the bite-sized pieces out of the bowl, I secretly enjoyed the flavors and textures, with the tomato adding a pleasant acidic balance to the dish.  I think we ate a little sourdough bread with the meal, using it to dip up the juices at the bottom of the bowl.  By the end of the night, my shirt was still stain-free.  I've been hooked on her method ever since. 

I discovered cute, funky-shaped sweet peppers at the farmer's markets in Los Angeles, and prefer to make sausage and peppers with them, though I'm probably being my usual food snob self there.  My favorites are the purple and pale yellow ones I find sometimes; this weekend I bought a small green, an even smaller yellow, and a long reddish-yellow one, along with a few varieties of heirloom tomatoes from the same farmer.  I bought a couple of sweet Italian sausages at-- where else?-- Berkeley Bowl, and served this with a seeded Semifreddi's baguette.  I don't use any cheese these days, but note that this dish, be it in a bowl or on a roll, is delicious with a very light sprinkling of grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmegiano.

Sorry, Dad.

Sausage & Peppers
Serves 2
adapted from Several Members of the DiStasi Family

2 sweet Italian sausages, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 cup bell peppers, cut into thumb-sized strips
1/2 cup tomato, cut into chunks
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic
salt, pepper, and maybe a little oregano

1. Saute onion and garlic in a little olive or canola oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add sliced peppers and saute another 3-4 minutes, until shiny and beginning to soften. I add my salt, pepper, and oregano here but "real" cooks add it at the end.
2. Add sausage pieces. Continue to saute until sausage is nearly done, about 8-10 minutes.  Peppers and onions should become soft but not mushy.
3. Add tomatoes and cook another 2 minutes, or until tomato pieces have softened and released some liquid but haven't disintegrated.  Sausage should be fully cooked by now.
4. Serve in bowls with warmed baguette, and sprinkle with grated cheese, if desired.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Rose by Any Other Name

I've laughed out loud in the produce section lately. While Berkeley is filled with people who talk to themselves or laugh at silent, invisible jokes, I had rather hoped I wouldn't be one of them.  Anyway, it seems funny food names favor fruits disproportionately.  Obviously, vegetable growers lack a sense of humor. 

Recently I've eaten foods called:
-'Hippy Zebra' (a green striped tomato)
-'Beef Master' (only a man would come up with this)
-'Jolly' (I pop these in my mouth whole.  Is that piggish?  So?)
-'Mortgage Lifter' (who cares what they look like? I'm buying these by the truckful)
-'Torpedo' (a red onion in the shape of... a torpedo)
-'Elephant Heart' (a blood-red plum with an odd shape)
-'October Sun' (I'm totally biased here)
-'Ruby Velvet'(aptly named, but plum people clearly have too much time on their hands)
-'Emerald Beaut' (sic) (ditto)
-easter egg radishes (red, pink, purple and white all in one bunch)
-lemon cucumbers (these are the cutest cucumbers EVER invented)
-rainbow chard (I wish the color didn't fade when I cook it)
-dinosaur kale (you can't NOT eat this stuff!)

I've probably fallen for the oldest marketing trick in the book-- make the product sound enticing and people will buy it.  But hey, I'd rather buy 'Elephant Heart' plums than 'Red Misshapen' ones.