Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews
The potato chip of the pepper world
Looking for a terrific new taste treat? These amazing little fried Cruschi peppers—which are not spicy—are as awesome as potato chips and also equally addictive. If you’re at all like me, you might eat most of the bag in the course of a single long Zoom call!
Cruschi (pronounced,“Krew-ski”) come to us from the southern Italian region of Basilicata. They’re made from a particular local pepper—Peperone di Senise—that are so special they have a denomination of origin like a wine. For nearly three hundred years now, locals grow the peperoni, allow them to ripen to a deep red on the vine, then harvest them by hand. The freshly picked peppers are strung into large wreaths, then hung in open-walled sheds to dry for three to four weeks. When the peppers are completely dry, the wreaths are carefully unstrung and the peppers are fried in local olive oil until the skin is a deep dark, brick red with a terrific crispy texture.
The Cruschi peppers are slightly smoky, slightly sweet, very slightly spicy, and super terrifically tasty. You can definitely eat them directly out of the bag as I’ve been doing regularly for the last few days. Or you can use Cruschi in salads like croutons, or crumble them onto soups or pasta dishes as a crunchy red garnish. You can also cook with them—add them to sauces, stews, braises, etc., in the way you would other dried chiles or dried mushrooms. The other evening, I made a pasta sauce with chunks of pork, fresh fennel, celery, and a generous handful of these peppers. I finished the dish with more of the peppers crumbled dry atop the bowls before serving. The typical dish of the area calls for the Cruschi to be slow cooked in a sauté pan with olive oil, garlic, and toasted bread crumbs. Add them to omelets. Or try them crushed atop bruschetta—toasted Farm Bread with olive oil, ricotta, and these peppers… wonderful. An awesome taste of a region that is not—even when there’s no pandemic—heavily touristed. Pack them for lunches, put them out in a bowl to munch on while you watch a good film, or stick a bag in the car for when you get stuck in traffic!