Piperade is the quintessential Basque dish.
Perfect for pintxos, spread on a crusty baguette or atop a slice of tortilla española. Or, as a warm accompaniment to flaky cod or stewed chicken. It's a classic cradle for sunny side up eggs, while strong enough to stand alone as star of the show.
All this introduction for just onions, peppers and tomatoes? Deliciously, yes.
What makes piperade so wonderful is how the ingredients are prepared—julienned, and how they're cooked—confit. The olive oil becomes infused with piment D' Espelette, and the ingredients achieve caramelization. Can green pepper really caramelize? Yes, yes it can.
If you're thinking, is it fair to say vegetables confit since they're not meat? I vote yes, because there isn't a better term to describe the long, warm oil bath in which they find themselves dancing. Also, because anything I've ever tasted that's been prepared confit is delectable. And, because it sounds fancy.
So, here's my take on the Basque classic.
Piperrada vasca/ Basque Piperade
In a deep braising pan or large cast iron skillet on medium heat, combine and cook the below for about 15 minutes, until ingredients are completely softened (not browned). You may adjust the temperature to medium low or low. You don't want the oil to sizzle or sputter out of the pan, or fry your onions.
1/3 cup olive oil (I use Nuñez de Prado)
1 medium-lrg onion or xl shallot, julienned
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
8-10 black peppercorns
Next, turn down the heat to medium low add the below ingredients. Continue cooking for another 12-15 minutes, until completely softened:
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp piment d’Espelette*
2 bell peppers (1 red & 1 green), julienned
2 laurel leaves
Lastly, add these final ingredients, stir to coat, and cook on medium low for about 15 minutes, until olive oil reaches a neon red- orange color (pictured below):
1/3 cup olive oil
3-4 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
lemon juice (from 2 wedges)
1.5 tsp sea salt (I use an organic French grey sea salt from S.A.L.T. Sisters, a woman-owned business)
healthy splash of dry red wine, optional
1/2 cup chicken stock, optional
To achieve thinly sliced or julienned vegetables, I use my knife skills or an 11-cup Cuisinart food processor with the thinnest slicing blade. For safety reasons, I don't love using a mandoline.
*Substitution: If you don't have piment d'Espelette, sub for pimentón de la vera. If you don't have pimentón, use 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1 teaspoon fresh chili. You can also use cayenne pepper or a sweet paprika. Smoky paprika will lend an Andalusian flare to this dish, which would also be delicious but not authentically Basque.
N.B. The above-mentioned products or companies are what I actually use in my kitchen, and have personally been happy with their quality and performance.