My Dad has had a long love affair with Italy.
It started with Giovanni, an Italian who lives in the Ligurian town of La Spezia and who worked in the same field as my Dad. When they met, the two hit it off immediately and, eventually, became fast friends. For many years, my Dad and Giovanni have enjoyed a mutual admiration society. Some of my Dad’s best stories are of his travels with Giovanni.
Giovanni has equally great stories about my Dad. Years ago my husband and I went to Italy and visited Giovanni, who gave us an impressive tour of Liguria and Piemonte. Everywhere we went was a place that Giovanni and my Dad had gone together. Every place triggered an entertaining story about my Dad.
We dubbed the trip, Following in the Footsteps of Santo Earlo (my Dad being Earl). If my Dad had gone a place with Giovanni, so did we. And if we thought about deviating from the route previously taken by Santo Earlo, Giovanni convinced us we would live in error if we strayed from the path. We had a great time; Giovanni was the consummate host.
One of Giovanni’s greatest coups was convincing the management of Fontanafredda winery into giving us a tour even though the winery was not open that day. God knows who Giovanni said we were, but we were given the executive tour, and treated to an amazing tasting of Fontanafredda’s excellent Barolos.
Although my Dad’s health no longer allows him to physically travel, he remains in close contact with Giovanni, and spends time in Italy by reading about his favorite country. My Dad sends many of these books to Giovanni. The two enjoy their own private book club by letter and email.
Carlo Levi’s book Christ Stopped at Eboli: The Story of a Year, is one my Dad and Giovanni both loved. In the 1930s, Levi was banished to Southern Italy, and held under house arrest for opposing Mussolini and the Fascists. In Christ Stopped at Eboli, Levi describes the land to which he was banished: its people, its poverty, and the horrible conditions that led many Italians to leave their homeland for life in America. Italians say "Christ stopped at Eboli" meaning that once you travel south of Eboli, the people are uncivilized, forgotten, and deprived.
Yesterday my Dad sent me a passage from Seasons in Basilicata in which the author describes a memorable meal: "And so we had a kind of pre-dinner around a large kitchen table in a toasty warm kitchen with a platter of bruschetta spread with tomato sauce (home made of course), fat slices of pecorino (ditto), and beautiful red peppers stuffed with a mixture of minced crumbled bread, anchovies, garlic, cheese, and egg and roasted in the oven with home made olive oil."
My Dad was intrigued by the use of anchovies in the pepper stuffing, and thought the idea would appeal to me. It did. So here, in honor of Carlo Levi, my Dad, and dear Giovanni, is my version of the stuffed peppers described by Yeardon.
Serves 4 as a main dish or 8 as a side dish
Anchovy-stuffed Peppers Basilicata takes mere minutes to prepare. The anchovies melt into the stuffing as the peppers cook; their flavor doesn't stand out, but enhances the other flavors in the dish. Although this tastes fine made with green peppers, I prefer using red or yellow peppers because they are sweeter and have better flavor. For a more refined version, roast the peppers and remove the charred skin before stuffing them, bake the stuffed peppers at 400°F for 30 – 35 minutes, until the stuffing is golden brown.
4 red or yellow bell peppers
3 cups fresh bread crumbs, preferably from artisan-style bread
12 – 16 anchovy fillets, minced
2 – 3 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup minced parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 Tbsp. for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Make the bread crumbs in the food processor, and put them in a bowl large enough to hold all the stuffing. Add the anchovies, garlic, Parmesan, parsley, eggs, freshly ground black pepper, and 1/4 cup olive oil, and mix thoroughly, making sure the anchovies are evenly distributed in the stuffing.
Cut the peppers in half and discard the seeds. Oil a baking pan large enough to hold all the peppers. Stuff each pepper half and put it in the oiled pan. Drizzle peppers with the remaining olive oil. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, until the peppers are soft and the stuffing is golden brown.
Serve with thin slices of pecorino or Parmigiano reggiano cheese, and toasted bread rubbed with garlic and fresh tomato.
This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging #108, hosted this week by The Expatriot's Kitchen.