Calabrese Salad
Insalata Calabrese

serves: 6 servings

Peppers play a central role in this Calabrian version of potato salad. Fresh green peppers are fried as a main salad ingredient; and peperoncino, dried crushed red-pepper flakes, serves as an essential seasoning. The peppers you want for this are the slender, long ones with sweet, tender flesh, which I have always just called "Italian frying peppers." These days, with the greater popularity of peppers and chilis here in America, markets sell a number of varieties that are suitable for frying, such as banana peppers, wax peppers, Hungarian peppers, and Cubanelle peppers. In addition to this delicious salad with potatoes, you'll find many wonderful uses for fresh peppers, fried Italian-style. Season them with olive oil and slices of garlic, let them marinate, and enjoy them as part of antipasto or layered in a sandwich. Or sprinkle a little wine vinegar on the peppers (with the olive oil and garlic) for a condiment-like salad that is just perfect with grilled fish or chicken.

ingredients
1 pound russet potatoes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 Italian frying peppers, preferably 5 inches or longer
12 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

directions


Put the potatoes in a pot with water to cover them by about 2 inches, and heat to a steady boil. Cook just until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork or sharp knife blade (don't let them get mushy), then drain and cool them. Peel off the skins, cut the potatoes crosswise into round slices about 1/3 inch thick, and put in the salad bowl.

Pour 1/4 cup of the olive oil into a big skillet, and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, lay in the peppers and cook for a couple of minutes, until they're sizzling and starting to color on one side, then turn them and brown the other side. Keep turning and moving the peppers around so they cook and color evenly. After 5 minutes, when the peppers have been turned a couple of times and are sizzling nicely, scatter the garlic cloves in between them. Now lay another, smaller skillet or a heavy pot cover on top of the peppers, and press down for more thorough browning. Cook for another 5 minutes or more, rotating the peppers a couple of times, until browned and blistered on all surfaces. Remove from the heat, and let the peppers cool for a few minutes, with the weight still in place. When the peppers can be handled, cut off the stems, peel off the skin, slice them open, and scrape out the seeds. Slice them lengthwise in strips about 1 inch wide; if the peppers were very long, cut the strips crosswise into nice lengths for eating, 3 inches or so.

Assemble and dress the salad while the pepper strips are still warm (though it is also good at room temperature). Put the pepper pieces and the onion slices in the bowl with the potatoes, and sprinkle over them the salt and peperoncino. Drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and the vinegar on the vegetables, and toss well. Remove garlic and serve right away.