Growing up in an Italian family, you’re exposed to a lot of interesting dishes, some very basic and inexpensive and some with a historical background that can date back 300 years.
Like a lot of Italian dishes, there’s always some great story about the origin behind a dish but I really could not find any history on peppers and eggs. It is kind of basic and inexpensive to prepare. Basically, a cucina povera (cuisine of the poor) dish to prepare.
I do know that peppers and eggs became popular in Chicago at the hotdog stands on Fridays, probably due to the many Italian Catholics abstaining from meat. I’ve even seen East Coast cities such as Philadelphia, New York and Boston where they have signs on the outside of diners that read “peppers and eggs.”
I remember during Lent, peppers and eggs were one of my father’s favorite sandwiches. He would tell me that when he was a child, my Nana’s go-to dish. She would wrap it in foil and sent it to school with him.
I can just imagine my father sitting at the lunch table, greasy brown sack with a big smile on his face, enjoying his sandwich while everyone else was eating peanut butter and jelly.
But of course my father always went one step further when he started preparing this dish. He would add fried potatoes, something he picked up growing up in New Jersey. I have even added in a little bit of garlic, Romano cheese and basil to mine. Absolutely delicious!
One of the tricks to this sandwich is having a good seeded Italian bread that’s crispy. The bread should be toasted with a little bit of butter on it. It’s that simple.
And one last note, If you like hot stuff, add a little hot (as in spicy hot) giardiniera to top it off.
Oh, and don’t forget to add potatoes and onions, my papa would approve!
Fried Peppers & Eggs
Buttered Italian bread
1 medium onion
2 bell peppers
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Fresh basil chopped fine
1 tablespoon oil
1 garlic clove minced
Toast bread. Cut bell peppers and onions into strips. Crack eggs in a mixing bowl, add Romano cheese, salt, pepper and basil and whisk. Heat a nonstick pan on the stove at medium heat. Add oil, peppers and onions. Cook until onions are translucent. Add garlic and remove from heat. Do not burn garlic. Add egg mixture and return to heat. Lightly scramble, fold and serve over buttered toast.
Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s runs his family’s 62-year-old restaurant with his brother. Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells dressings and sauces.