Piperade is a Basque dish from southwest France that takes its name from the local word for pepper — pipèr. It is traditionally made using piments d’Anglet, a long, thin green pepper that is cultivated in the region. As this type of pepper is largely unavailable elsewhere, green bell peppers are generally substituted.
Piperade combines the peppers with onion, garlic and tomatoes to produce a dish similar to ratatouille (minus the eggplant and zucchini) that may be served as a side dish to meat, poultry or fish, as the filling for a Basque omelet, or as a topping for pasta. It is sometimes served alongside slices of dry-cured ham that have been very briefly sautéed in olive oil — a process known as aller-retour in French, i.e. a few seconds on each side.
Another regional ingredient that can be hard to find is piment d’Espelette, or ground, sun-dried red peppers from the Basque country. This type of pepper has considerably less fire than cayenne, and I find that freshly ground black pepper makes a perfectly acceptable substitute — or, if you enjoy a lot of heat, you can add a crushed cayenne pepper.
This dish takes a while to prepare, but it is extremely easy and therefore qualifies as everyday French cooking, in my opinion.
1 medium onion, red or white
1 clove garlic
1 green bell pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper, piment d’Espelette or a small, crushed cayenne pepper
Peel and quarter the onion. Chop crosswise into thin slices.
Peel the garlic and mince finely.
Rinse the pepper, cut out the core and remove the seeds and light-colored membrane. Chop into thin vertical slices
Heat the olive oil to sizzling in a heavy frying pan. Add the onion slices, reduce the heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring regularly, until the onions are wilted, about 5 minutes.
Add the minced garlic, stir briefly, then add the pepper slices. Sauté until the pepper is tender, about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
While the pepper is cooking, rinse the tomatoes and chop into small cubes.
When the pepper is tender, add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
Continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes have totally dissolved to make a sauce.
Serve warm or hot, as a side dish to meat or fish, in an omelet or as a topping for pasta. Serves 2-3.