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~ Steak Peperonata (Steak with Peppers & Onions) ~

IMG_4142I love almost all vegetables.  When I was growing up, fresh vegetables were served with just about every meal.  My mom wasn't a fancy cook, but, roast beef was served with roasted carrots, baked ham came with cabbage or brussels sprouts, meatloaf got peas, pork chops got baked beans, spaghetti got tomato sauce, T-bone steaks got corn in some form, and, hot dogs came with home fries.  My dad grew some of the vegetables in his garden, my mom bought the rest at the local Hometown Farmer's Market.  What's my point?  Veggies weren't a threat.  They were a natural part of the entire "meat and potatoes" dining experience -- not some crazy food pyramid!

IMG_8280One veggie we didn't eat was bell peppers.  It wasn't for any other reason than my parents are both of Eastern European heritage and bell peppers aren't in their playbook. But, thanks to my "no fear of vegetables" upbringing, when I got married and started cooking for my own family, I didn't hesitate to give them a try.  You can find my recipe for ~ Joy's Italian-American-Style Stuffed Bell Peppers ~ by clicking on the Related Article link below.

As simple as peperonata is to make, and, as popular as it is with Joe's family, their rendition of this Italian dish leaves me "on the fence".  It is indeed properly prepared, but it is a tad soft and saucelike for my palate.  They serve it at room temperature as an antipasto (an appetizer) atop bruschetta, or, warm as a sauce for fish or pasta, and, they gobble it down.  My ho-hum attitude towards it is not a criticizm of their peperonata, it is a matter of personal taste:  I don't like the mouthfeel of bell peppers and onions cooked to that lush degree of doneness that comes from cooking them low and slow with EVOO until quite that soft and silky.  Lucky for me:

Peperonata is open to a limited amount of interpretaion!

IMG_4111But, it is best when kept within its simple, humble profile.  Garlic is a common addition, along with an occasional pinch of sugar and/or splash of wine for a flavor boost.  Herbs like basil, oregano and rosemary can be interchanged to suit your taste and/or what you're serving. Tomatoes can be added too, but, to me, even though that is tasty, that is one ingredient too many.  Why?  It creates a dish that requires another name: peperonata-pomodoro perhaps!

IMG_3747When I cook the peppers a bit al dente (& serve it with steak):

IMG_4045I find peperonata to be downright charming! 

IMG_3765About the bell peppers:  Use all one color or any combination of colors. This week my market had really beautiful ones, in four bright colors, so, today, I'm using:

2 each:  green, red, orange and yellow bell peppers, seeded, white rib sections removed and cut into 1/4" wide strips, or,

3  pounds any color or combination of bell pepper strips

IMG_3752 IMG_3785Note:  This may sound like a lot of peppers, but trust me, it is not.  I always make twice as much peperonata as I will need.  Why?  Because I also cook two steaks too, and, in the same time it would take me to make one steak and half as much peperonata, I have enough leftover for some glorious steak peperonata crostini the next day!

IMG_3767 IMG_3789About the onions:  Any yellow onion works great. If Vidalias are in season, they make the dish a bit special.  Come up with your own ratio, but my general rule is 3 parts peppers to 1 part onions:

1  pound peeled yellow or sweet onion, cut into 1/4" half-moon shaped strips

IMG_37924  tablespoons EVOO

1  tablespoon fennel seed*

1  teaspoon dried basil*

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder* 

1  teaspoon red pepper flakes

2  teaspoons sea salt

IMG_3850*Note:  The licorice flavors of basil and fennel play together very well & I used garlic powder when making an all-purpose dry spice blend.

IMG_3837~ Step 1. Place EVOO in a large skillet.  Add the spices. Adjust heat to medium-low and stir until spices become fragrant (not sizzling).

IMG_3862 IMG_3874~ Step 2. Add peppers and onions to the pan. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently until veggies are cooked through to your liking.  I cook this amount about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat, partially-cover & set aside about 30 minutets.

Tip from Mel:  A well-made peperonata should result in the vegetables being lightly enrobed in olive oil.  To achieve that, do not simmer it over too high of a heat or it will become watery.  

IMG_3871Quick & easy, spicy, tender & juicy flank steak coming right up!

IMG_4091 6a0120a8551282970b01538e702722970bFor the flank steak:

2  flank steaks, about 1 1/2 pounds each

For the spice blend:

repeat all of the same spices from above + 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1- 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika

IMG_4094~ Step 1. Place all of the spices in a spice blender and "run them through" 1-3 times, until powdered to your liking and redish in color.

IMG_3882 IMG_3879~ Step 2. Place each steak in a disposable aluminum broiler pan.  I used these so there is no mess to clean up.  

IMG_3890Drizzle and brush 1-2 tablespoons of EVOO evenly over the top of each steak (not the bottom).

IMG_3898 IMG_3901~ Step 3. Evenly sprinkle all of the spice blend over the tops of the steaks, which, depending upon how powered your mixture is, is a little less than 2 tablespoons per steak.

~ Step 4.  Place the flank steaks 6" underneath preheated broiler and cook for 6 minutes.  The tops of the steaks will be golden and bubbly.

IMG_3909Remove from oven, flip steaks over and repeat the broiling process on the second side, for 6 minutes.

Note:  If you don't want to rely on timing and "look", test for doneness using an instant read meat thermometer.  I remove my steaks when they reach 130-132 degrees.

IMG_4103~ Step 5.  Remove steaks from oven and allow to rest, uncovered, in pans, about 8-10 minutes.  

Transfer to a cutting board.  Using a large chef's knife, slice the steak, as thinly as possible (or as thin as you want it to be), cutting across the grain, holding the knife at a 30 degree angle.  

Each slice of steak will be coated with a very flavorful, almost gravy-like spice mixture.  YUMMY!

What about pasta with steak pepperonata?  You betcha!

IMG_3912Yes my friends, because both my pepperonata and the spice blend on my steak are flavored with a bit of basil, pasta that is lightly-sauced with tomato-basil sauce turns this fantastic dish into a suberb meal!

1  pound rigatoni, cooked and drained

2  cups tomato-basil sauce, preferably homemade (Note: You can find  ~ My Fresh and Spicy Tomato Sauce (Marinara) ~ recipe in Categories 8, or 12.)

IMG_4155Remember to get some fresh mozzarella too because leftovers from tonight's dinner turn into great appetizers tomorrow!

IMG_4137Steak Peperonata (Steak with Peppers & Onions):  Recipe yields 8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; electric spice blender, or, mortar and pestle; 2, 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" disposable aluminum broiler pans w/corrugated bottoms; pastry brust; instant read meat thermometer

6a0120a8551282970b014e8869f0b3970d-800wiCook's Note:  If you are a lover of flank steak, for one of my family's favorite sandwiches and a really easy way to make it, you can find my recipe for ~ Blackened Flank Steak & Bacon Sandwiches ~ in Categories 2, 10, 17, 19 & 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)


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