Archive for Anchovies

Carpe Pepper! Tuscan Peposo – The Other Beef Stew

Peposo – A Fiery Love Story

Peposo simmering in the pot

Peposo simmering in the pot


I love simple dishes. Many simple dishes come to us from medieval times – though they may sometimes use ingredients that are no longer easy to find, most dishes in the 12th century used bread, meat, fish, veggies – just as we do today, only differently, because – half a millennium and more!! And they were often quite simple, particularly if they were dishes of the people.

People learned clever ways to make inexpensive cuts of meat tender and delicious and ways to use spices to enhance that flavor.

One of my favorite old dishes is peposo – Tuscan pepper stew. Peposo is sometimes called Tuscany’s answer to chili. It’s a rich, savory stew that emphasizes simplicity of preparation and long slow cooking. This particular dish also emphasizes lots and lots and lots of black pepper, both cracked and ground.  Sometimes, it is said, pepper was used so liberally to disguise a cut of meat that may have gone off a bit.

That’s not what we’re doing here.

The dish originated in the 13th century and is documented as having fed the laborers working to create tiles – an incredible-for-the-time 4,000,000 terracotta tiles – for the dome, or Duomo, of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence (1420-1436).

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral - the Duomo

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral – the Duomo – Home of “The Original” Peposa

These workers were not wealthy, and used a cheap cut of meat that – I *think* – is today known as the shank. I didn’t have a shank when I made this dish, so I cut up a piece of chuck roast and it worked beautifully. I think any cut of beef like the shank or beef short ribs, boned, or skirt steak, or shin, would work just beautifully in this dish. It is definitely fun to experiment!

The first time I made Peposo, I followed the recipe closely and was pretty sure I was going to fry everybody’s esophagus. Except, of course, mine, as I am immune (gasp, wheeze!).

I was delighted to find that the large quantities of black pepper called for in the recipe just melted into the dish, which ended up peppery but not overly so, and entirely delicious.

So, of course, I tried using a bit more pepper – particularly the cracked pepper – and it was wonderful.

I’ve made a few other modifications to this dish so check out the recipe below – this is a different kind of beef stew and I think you’ll like it. The Italian workers certainly did!!
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Where Would We Be Without Our Friends? Pissaladiere Nicoise

Pissaladiere with rough cross-hatching of anchovies, Nicoise olives

Pissaladiere with rough cross-hatching of anchovies, Nicoise olives

Pissaladiere is a French pizza. Its crust is most similar to Neapolitan pizza crust – but it’s thin and more cracker-like rather than thin and chewy. It uses no red sauce – just caramelized onions, olives, and anchovies. Quite a few anchovies.

I’d always thought it was a little bit of a pain to make and so, in my carefree way, I Never. Made. It.

And yes, this was a huge mistake, OK? But with a little help, I was able to overcome my lazybones attitude. Call it Pissaladiere therapy.

Sometimes the best kind of therapy is just hearing a friend say “I did this – why don’t you try it?”

One day my friend Susie stopped by with – count ’em – not one but two Pissaladiere. They were steaming hot and so painfully delicious that we had a hard time thanking her around mouthfuls of crisp crust, gloriously sweet caramelized onions, tangy Nicoise olives, and anchovies, lots of anchovies!

“I was just making Pissaladiere and I thought you and Bonney would like some so I made a couple of extra pies.”

I wish all my friends were like that, don’t you!!?

“Susie, you shouldn’t have – thank you, they’re {Chew, Snorf, Swallow} amazing {Take second piece, inhale it}!! What a lot of work, though – wow!”

“Oh, they’re really not hard to make. It was just as easy to make enough for a couple more while I was making what I needed.”

Knowing Susie, she may well have knitted 3 scarves, a sweater and a doggie jacket while preparing the Pissaladiere, she is – amazing – that way, but I digress! The point is, she did it. Therefore, I could do it. And – by a leap of logic – you can do it!

Encouraged by Susie’s wild bound into mass production of Pissaladiere, I began making my own. I liked the Cook’s Illustrated recipe. I liked Ina Garten’s recipes. I ended up with something that took a bit from both these remarkable sources, to whom I bow down in the evening before retiring. And – you know, it turned out to really be not too tough to make. Read on – in a little while, you will own this dish! Read the rest of this entry »

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