The quality of the oil is crucial here, and the quantity too, though I know it seems a lot and there are many peperonata recipes without it - I once ate one in Sicily that was close to a puree. The idea of my version is a very rich stew, meltingly comforting but with a little kick, the sweetness of the peppers drawn out by slow and low simmering in a fruity olive oil: the slowness teases out the peppers, the low heat leaves the flavour in the olive oil. You can leave out the olives and the chilli, but cook something else rather than leave out the oil. This is my favourite way of serving peperonata, though grilled polenta shows it off well too, and it’s not too proud to act as a side dish, especially if eggs, risotto or pasta are involved.
SLICE THE ONION INTO THIN QUARTER ROUNDS, put it in a heavy pan with the garlic and the olive oil and slowly bring the oil up to a very low heat. Chop the peppers into thickish strips, about
Cut the ciabatta in half lengthways, spread a thin layer of tapenade on both halves and drizzle some olive oil over this. Pop the bread into a hot oven for a few minutes, or under a hot grill.
Serve the peperonata and some ciabatta wedges with plenty of freshly torn basil and shavings of parmesan scattered over.
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