Self Doubt and Peperonata

Miguelópolis April 20, 2010

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They say that things get better with time. I want to believe them, whoever “they” are. I want to believe them because I know wine gets better with time. I know the ache and pain of losing a loved one gets better with time. I’m certain that marriage does. I want to believe that this blog will too.

Six months ago, if you told me I’d soon have a food blog, I’d have cocked my head to the side and wondered what glue you were sniffing. But sometimes I get carried away. When I started immersing myself in the world of food, I wanted to have a record of that experience. And now, here I am — writing, taking photos and hoping that the blog gets even better over time.

If it’s anything like this recipe for peperonata, it will. (Segway!)

There’s a reason I call this one a 2-hour peperonata. It takes time and patience to wait for the sliced onions to release their sugars. This is the secret. There is no substitute for time. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be more like these onions when they’re ready: tan, sweet and totally irresistible?

I first cooked this dish the same day I bought Andrew Carmellini’s Urban Italian cookbook. It was a lovely recipe, one that relied on the classic Italian sensation of agrodolce. It’s accomplished by combining a light hit of sweet (sugar) and sour (vinegar) ingredients. Over many months, I simplified (and probably bastardized) his version. Still, it amazes me because it’s a testament to how how few ingredients are really necessary when proper techniques are used.

In essence, this is the produce of slowly cooking shredded onions, throwing in some sauteed peppers and garlic and then hitting the whole thing with sugar and balsamic vinegar. It can be a lovely side dish or a totally respectable topping for fish. The only thing I wish I would have done for the purpose of the above picture is slice the vegetables thinner so that they’d be easier to eat.

Last weekend, I used my peperonata as a topping for a gourmet hot dog. If I’m being quite honest, it was well worth the time and the trouble. I could have even eaten it without the bun. Or the hot dog for that matter.


2-Hour Peperonata


1 onion, sliced thin
2 bell peppers, sliced thin (an assortment of colors helps with presentation)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch of parsley, chopped
3 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs sugar
3 tbs olive oil
kosher salt, to taste


Put the onions in a pan along with the olive oil. Add a pinch of kosher salt. Cook over lowest flame possible until they are soft and golden. Do not let them sear. If they pan dries out too much, add water.

Meanwhile, in another saute pan, cook peppers gently over medium heat. Add garlic during last few minutes and stir until it becomes aromatic. When onions are ready, combine with pepper mixture. Add balsamic vinegar and sugar. Cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Season to taste and top with parsley.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

5chw4r7z April 20, 2010 at 6:57 am

I’m going to start another blog where all i do is cook the recipes I see on your blog.

We keep talking about cooking all this stuff, need to start soon.


Ann April 20, 2010 at 10:48 am

Looks delicious, Courtney. I started Stocks & Sauces yesterday with Chef Galvin – it is definitely a step up from CUL 1. Can’t wait to read your experience.


Jenny K April 20, 2010 at 3:28 pm

The first few months of blogging are really fun and easy… then the honeymoon wears off and it gets a little harder.

The good news is that you have a fantastic thing going!! Stay strong :)


Randy A. Simes April 20, 2010 at 4:18 pm

You’re absolutely right that things get tougher, and I know that it helps when you get positive reinforcement. You do tremendous work Courtney and I think a lot of Cincinnatians are really appreciative of your work whether you hear from them or not.

Do what you can to get through and make sure you don’t burn yourself out. There are a lot of things that take priority in life ahead of running a blog, and I think most people understand and do not fault you for taking a breather if you need one. Good luck.


Courtney April 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm

So, indeed, maybe the honeymoon is over. But here’s the good news. I’ve never been so happy. (No lie.) Here’s my lesson: despite the rigor (fact of life) sometimes it takes something as silly as food to connect to the bigger picture.


dc April 21, 2010 at 5:30 am

This sounds very similar to the long conversation you and I had a couple of months ago about our love affair with food, and how writing about is really a way to reflect and report on how we all come together around a table, despite our differences. The irony is, that in the process of it becoming Work, we tend to lose some of the connection that we are ever-curious about, and burn-out sets in. As Mr. Simes wisely states above, balance is important.

But… I made the same thing this past Saturday night for a post roller derby party. Bison and Italian sausages from Kroeger & Sons, with pepperonata. AbFab.


Julie April 21, 2010 at 8:46 am

She’s very right. Whenever I feel like, “Crap, I have to write a post or else…” I just don’t. Sometimes I write them ahead, sometimes I don’t, but I’ve told you this as well: most people can tell when someone is excited about what they write about. You can also tell when someone is burnt out. It’s a balance that can be difficult, but doable.

It doesn’t take long for the honeymoon to be over, but, like any good marriage, it really does get better with time. As someone who’s been doing this blog thing for a while, it amazes me how different (and, imo, better) my blog is now than when it started. I’ve had similar discussions with others about their writing and how it’s changed, blog or not. Focus and experience help. You’re definitely off to a good start.


Courtney April 23, 2010 at 6:27 am

Oh, and reg. pressure to post: I’m thinking about backing off of number of posts to hopefully improve the quality. We’ll see how it goes.


Courtney April 21, 2010 at 9:04 am

Sometimes the best things in life happen when you get carried away. Or at least, that’s what Michael Ruhlman says. That being said, I know it’s impossible to write or to connect in any meaningful way if I’m not slowing down and letting things happen. I’m working on it.

I guess I’m less driven by delivering content though and more driven by my own fascination with food and desire to really understand it. There’s a whole culture “on the line” that fascinates me. And then there’s the aspect of eating and how we interpret food as diners.

Yeah. It’s authentic connection. I think that’s what fuels me.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts. And I thought this would be about peperonata! Cheers.


Mark May 13, 2010 at 1:48 pm

First off I made this recipe and it was very good. Though I should have cooked everything longer but I got too hungry. Just have fun with the blog. You have a unique perspective and a candid sytle that makes it relatable.


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