My local big box store always has one bargain that I can never pass up, sweet peppers. Six in a bag, two each of red, yellow and orange, they usually cost about 6.49. Supermarket sweet red peppers occasionally are on sale at a 1.99 per pound but can go as high as 4.99 a pound in the off season. Orange and yellow ones never seem to go on sale. Since we only have access to local and peppers from our garden only two months out of the year, I don’t mind buying them.
The peppers are grown in greenhouses in Canada and have consistent good flavor and texture. I like using them in salads, stuffing them with chili and cooking them on the grill. We had a few left over recently that weren’t grilled and was looking for a way to use them in the next several days. Then I remembered piperade.
Classic piperade originates from the Basque country in the southwest region of France. It is a versatile preparation that compliments everything from eggs to chicken to fish dishes. A simple saute of bell peppers, onion and tomato, piperade is enlivened by the addition of piment d’espelette. Piment d’espelette is a pepper native to France in the Basque country. The flavor is fresh and fruity with just a hint of smoky heat.
Piment d’Espelette has AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) status. This is a protective designation of origin and means the pepper only comes from a 22 square kilometer region around the town of Espelette. The peppers are harvest by hand, air dried and finished in a kiln. They are sold dried, whole or pulverized into a flaky powder. Since we are not in tomato season I used diced canned tomatoes for this recipe. The once 16 ounce can has shrunk to 14.5 ounces, when will this madness stop? I used Hunts because Cooks Illustrated put them on top of their most recent testing. Their flavor was reported to be fresh, bright and sweet-tart. Sounds good to me.
Espelette pepper is sold by specialty grocers and can easily be found on line if you are an intrepid spice hunter like me. If not, substitute smoky paprika or Aleppo pepper with a dash of cayenne pepper. The piperade comes together easily. Saute an onion until translucent, add garlic, peppers and piment d’Espelette. Cook another minute until fragrant then add the tomatoes and their juice. Bring the mixture to a boil, season well and cook slowly for about 45 minutes or until the juices have thickened. Keep piperade warm while you cook the fish. Serve salmon on a bed of piperade and garnish with parsley. Serve leftover piperade with poached or scrambled eggs the next day.
- 1T olive oil, plus 2t for cooking salmon
- 1 medium onion, diced small
- 1T finely chopped garlic
- 1 yellow pepper, diced (about ¾cup)
- 1 red pepper, diced (about ¾cup)
- 1 orange pepper, diced (about ¾cup)
- 1t or to taste, piment d’Espelette, substitute smoky paprika and a dash of cayenne if necessary, additional to sprinkle on fish before baking
- 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 6-ounce boneless skinless salmon fillets
- 1-2T chopped parsley
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently until the onion is translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, peppers and piment d’Espelette. Cook, stirring frequently until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices, season well with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook slowly for about 45 minutes, stirring every now and then.
- Brush salmon fillets with olive oil, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and piment d’Espelette. Cook fish according to your favorite method, this is how we bake our fish. Spoon warm piperade on serving dish, nestle cooked fish on the piperade. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.