The week after Christmas, I was chatting with my friend Mark on IM. He was telling me about the Christmas Eve fish dinner his Mother (she is originally from Naples) made. He was running down the list, Linguine con Vongole, Fried Calamari, etc. While it sounded like a great dinner, it didn’t really excite me that much, because I am allergic to shellfish. But, all of a sudden he said “Vinegar Peppers stuffed with anchovies.” I stopped him dead in his tracks, I had to know about these peppers. As he told me about the stuffing, my mouth started to water: bread, anchovies, olives, pignoli. I had to make them.I had one question though, what kind of peppers? I figured they weren’t hot cherry peppers, but you never see sweet cherry peppers in the store anymore. He told me they were the sweet cherry peppers, but they are really hard to find. His mom keeps an eye out for them all year long, the ones she used this year (Sclafani brand) she bought in June! Still, I figured I could find them somehow, so I needed the recipe. Mark promptly got her on the phone, and transcribed the recipe into IM:
very difficult to take the stem and seeds out
take stem and seeds out
good italian bread in food processor
just the white
in the food processor also put chopped garlic and parseley
put in a bowl
add to bowl anchovies, quantity: you know, depending on phil
add to bowl capers, quantity: COME ON, same, depending on phil!!!
add to bowl olives: sliced black olives, quantity: depends
add to bowl pinnoli: quantity: depends
add to bowl shredded parmesan cheese
add to bowl olive oil
add to bowl a little water, enough to make it formeable
needs to bee done by hands
fill vinegar peppers
and then fry them UPSIDE DOWN until brown, flip and then cook bottom
let cool, very important
Not exactly a precise recipe, but that’s pretty much how my father always gives me recipes, so I could work with it. Now I had to procure the hard to find sweet cherry peppers. I knew I could probably order them over the internet, but I wanted to try finding them in a store if I could, for two reasons: first I didn’t want to have to pay for shipping, which can be kind of high with food products. Second, the thrill of the chase!
I tried every local supermarket, nothing. Checked deli’s and food specialty stores. Even called places I knew carried Sclafani products, “You mean Hot Cherry Peppers,” they asked? Talking to me like I was a Martian. Having no luck, I turned to the Internet. I found the Sclafani Sweet Cherry Peppers here and ordered them. I got a PayPal payment confirmation email and nothing else.
After over a month, I called the contact phone number, and got a guy on a cell phone. He informed me that the only place they are shipped from was in North Carolina, and they had been closed down since the Holidays due to a snow storm, and he did not know when they would be shipping. He then told me that if I ever wanted to order again to just call his cell phone instead of using the web site, and he would take care of me.
Needless to say, I was not confident they would ever come. So, back to the internet. I found Mezzette brand cherry peppers at www.buythecase.net (they are not there anymore), and ordered a case. They came within a couple of weeks, but the peppers were tiny and I was worried they would be too small, and a pain to stuff. The very next day the Sclafani’s showed up at my doorstep.
I decided I would try both, the tiny Mezzete peppers and the larger Sclafani. Even though the small ones were a little tougher to stuff, I got the hang pretty quickly, and I have to say I preferred them to the larger ones.
- 1 loaf Italian bread
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsely, chopped
- 8 anchovies, chopped
- 10 oil-cured black olives, pitted and sliced
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts (pignoli)
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmagianno-Reggiano Cheese
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 12-15 jarred sweet cherry peppers
- vegetable oil for frying
- Take the white from the Italian bread and place it in a food processor, and pulse until ground coarse. Should make about 1 cup, you, may not need to use whole loaf. Add the garlic and parsley and pulse until well combined. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add the anchovies, olives, capers, pine nuts, cheese and olive oil. Mix well, adding a tablespoon or two of cold water, to make it easy to handle.
- Using a small paring knife, cut each pepper around the stem, removing the stem, then with either the paring knife or your hands clean out the seeds, from inside the pepper. Stuff the peppers with the stuffing
- Fill a medium sautè pan about a quarter of the way up with vegetable oil, and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, add peppers, top down and cook until top is browned, flip and cook a few minutes more.
- Transfer to a serving plate and let cool to room temperature before serving, or refrigerating for later.