Peppers are a mainstay of Italian cuisine. Of course, they do not come from Italy but were one of the many gifts from the Americas. In Basilicata, the southernmost region, in the instep of the boot, also known by its more ancient name, Lucania, the peperoni di Senise are a popular pepper brought by the Spanish in the 16th century. Since 1996, these peppers have an IGP designation, which translates to protected geographical indication, meaning they are to be grown in a particular region in order to carry this label. The peppers are hung on strings to dry. The dried peppers are called peperoni secchi. There are many ways to prepare these peppers. Because they are also used to season food, they are known in local dialect as zafaran, or saffron. They can be crushed and added to a sauce, such as a breadcrumb sauce for pasta. These peppers are sweet and impart a smoky flavor to dishes. A popular way to prepare them is to create a snack food or an accompaniment to a recipe or dish by just frying them in olive oil. These are called peperoni cruschi. I used them to make peppers and eggs.
Peperoni cruschi e uova (Peppers and eggs)
3 peperoni cruschi (I used packaged peppers from Zingerman’s.)
about 1 T olive oil
Reconstitute the peppers in a little water for about 10 minutes. (You don’t have to do this, but I did to soften them.) Drain and slice. Heat olive oil in pan as you would to make scrambled eggs. Add peppers and eggs and scramble. Add salt to taste.
–Dina Di Maio