In the bookstore ostensibly to get a guidebook, I stumbled on Norwegian by Night by Derek. B. Miller1. Anything related to Norway (Norvegia) gets my attention. A quick look at the book jacket made me decide to purchase it. I started reading it and the story grabbed me right away.
One one level it is a crime story, set in Oslo. On another level it is the story of an elderly man coming to terms with his life, in particular the death of his only son in the Vietnam War. And on yet another level it is the dramatic and funny story of an adventurous escape. All with a generous seasoning of quirky wisdom. The protagonist, Sheldon Horowitz, is a widower who finds himself transplanted from New York to Oslo, where his granddaughter lives with her Norwegian husband.
Summarizing the story in a few lines is difficult, as there are several threads and I don't want to spoil the enjoyment of whoever decides to dive into the book. Suffice here to say that Sheldon finds himself on the run with a young boy whose mother has been murdered by his father. The situation transports Sheldon back to his training as a Marine and his experience in the Korean War. The boy does not say a word and Sheldon does the talking for the two of them.
The first leg of the escape occurs on a stolen boat. When the boat runs out of fuel, Sheldon docks and breaks into a nearby summer house, where he makes dinner for the boy and himself with whatever he finds in the cupboards.
Sheldon's actions are familiar to me. Sometimes I plan ahead. Other times, I open the refrigerator and put together a meal with what I have. The side dish I am describing here is the result of a set of casual events. I had some sweet Italian peppers and some zucchini from the farmers' market, plus some cipollini onion from my CSA box.
I had also just received an envelope with the monthly spice selection from RawSpiceBar2 to try, which included a sachet of Chipotle Smoked Sea Salt. I had never used smoked salt (sale affumicato) before and was eager to try it. One of the recipes included with the spice selection was for zucchini, squash and pepper grilled then seasoned with the smoked salt. I don't grill, but the recipe made me think of cooking the vegetables in olive oil then finishing them with the salt. Detto fatto, as we say in Italian: said and done. I like the subtle smokiness the salt imparts to the dish. (I also liked the other two spice mixes I received in the envelope and in general I like the concept of subscribing to receive a variety of spice mixes every month: it is a gentle nudge to try something different and discover new flavors.)
I loved the result and was happy to be able to make it again the following day and take photos, since I had enough ingredients. Don't get too hung up on the quantities. If you have more peppers (which happened to me a few days after my initial rendition of the recipe) just increase the other quantities accordingly. If you have leftovers you can always use them as base for a frittata or make a nest and cook an egg in it the way I show in my recent recipe3 using leafy green vegetables (tried and recommended).
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 ounces / 140 g sweet onion, like cipollini or walla walla
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 7 ounces / 200 g sweet Italian peppers
- 6 ounces / 170 g zucchini
- 3/8-1/2 teaspoon RawSpiceBar2 Chipotle smoked sea salt
Slice the onion lengthwise into thin sections no wider than 1/4 inch / 1/2 cm and separate the layers so you have short ribbons.
Cut the peppers lengthwise. Carve out and discard the stem portion, and the seeds and ribbing inside. Cut each half in half crosswise and finally slice each piece into short ribbons no wider than 1/4 inch / 1/2 cm.
Trim zucchini top and bottom, quarter lengthwise, then cut into 1/8 inch / 3 mm slices.
Warm up the olive oil in a skillet (I use a cast-iron one). Add the onion to the skillet, stir to coat and let cook on medium-low heat for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic. Continue cooking, stirring every now and then.
Five minutes after you started cooking the onion, add the peppers, stir and continue cooking, stirring every now and then.
Five minutes later, add the zucchini, stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Cover and cook on gentle heat until the peppers are of the desired tenderness (20-25 minutes). Every few minutes, uncover and stir.
When the peppers are ready, sprinkle the salt, adjusting the amount to your taste and stir, then remove the pan from the heat. Serve and eat right away.
I want to believe that both Sheldon and little Paul would enjoy my side dish, the way I enjoyed their moving story.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post
or launch the peperoni dolci con cipolle e zucchine audio file
FTC disclosure: I have received the linen and the Stainless Steel Slotted Serving Spoon free of charge from the manufacturer (la FABBRICA del LINO and Zeroll, respectively). I have not and will not receive any monetary compensation for presenting them on my blog. The experience shared and the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.
I have received the Chipotle smoked sea salt free of charge from the manufacturer (RawSpice Bar). I have not and will not receive any monetary compensation for presenting it on my blog. The experience shared and the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.