I’m not sure when I ate my first chilli pepper.
It certainly wasn’t when I was a kid. When I grew up in northwest Iowa, most people found peppers “too hot”.
I’m not talking about jalapenos or habaneros or – God forbid – ghost peppers. Even sweet peppers would be considered exotic by most Germans and Dutch in Osceola and O’Brien counties.
In fact, my family grew almost everything in our backyard garden. There were tomatoes and potatoes and sweetcorn and carrots. However, I don’t remember a single pepper plant among all of these premiums.
And that’s strange. My father was an adventurous eater and gardener. He planted spaghetti squash and baked Boston black bread.
For a year there were cotton plants in our garden, which we proudly took to school in autumn to show and tell. He also grew sugar beets and salsify, but never planted peppers.
My mother was also an experienced canning worker. She canned tomatoes and cherries and peaches and beans, but I can’t remember ever roasting and pickling a pepper.
I don’t even remember seeing them in stores. While I’m sure they were there, hiding among the other fresh vegetables in the fruit crate at Al’s Grocery in Melvin, I don’t remember my parents ever buying one.
If they did, I certainly wouldn’t have eaten it. Anything that smelled of spice and flavor was not welcome on my youthful plate.
I remember returning Kentucky Fried Chicken once because I heard the Colonel used “11 Herbs and Spices.” I wanted my fried chicken bland, thanks.
How things are changing. When I was walking through the farmers’ market last week, I was amazed at all the types of peppers that were for sale.
There were Thai chillies and sweet bells … shishitos and jalapenos. Most of all, however, I was fascinated by the strong red, purple, yellow and green tones. It was autumn in a basket.
So I bought some without really knowing what I was going to do with them. I decided to stick with the sweeter strains mainly because I thought they would be the most versatile. It was a good choice as one of my favorite dishes is sausage and peppers.
Sausage and peppers are more than just a delicious way to consume autumn’s bounties. It’s also an easy way to put together a delicious dinner in a snap, making it the perfect dish for a weekday meal.
I usually eat sausage and peppers over pasta. But just in case you want something a little more sophisticated, I also offer a variety that includes polenta.
Try one or both and enjoy the flavors and colors of the season.
Tin pan of sausage and peppers
Pan-pan food is one of my favorite foods when I want to eat quickly and deliciously. This is because everything is cooked on a sheet pan. If you line the pan with parchment or aluminum foil, there is very little cleaning involved.
I use a nice, spicy andouille sausage for this dish and serve it with pasta. You can also serve this mixture as a sandwich on a Hoagie bun. Choose the sausage that you like best. I use pre-cooked sausages so that too much fat doesn’t leak onto the peppers and onions.
The recipe is a variation of one I found on the Food Network website.
- 1 pound pre-cooked sausage (as I said above, I use andouille) cut into smaller pieces
- 2 peppers (I like to use red and yellow, but you could also use green), peeled, pitted and cut into thin strips
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- 8-12 ounces. Pasta, cooked (for serving)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.
Put the sliced peppers and onions in a large bowl. Add the sliced sausage and drizzle with olive oil.
Scrape the mixture onto your prepared sheet pan. Do not try to overload everything or some parts may not cook evenly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast for about 12 minutes, then stir the mixture gently. Return to the oven and bake for another 12 minutes. The tips of the onions and peppers can char slightly. That’s OK.
Serve over cooked pasta. Add grated Parmesan cheese to taste.
Sausage and peppers over polenta
This recipe from Martha Stewart takes sausage and peppers to a new level. While it’s a little more complicated than the sheet pan above, it’s well worth it.
This is especially true if you love fall colors. The mix of my red, yellow and green peppers on the polenta bed was beautiful. It was delicious too.
- 4 tbsp butter, divided
- 1 pound pre-cooked sausage
- 2 peppers (any color), pitted and pitted
- 1 medium onion
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 2¾ cups of chicken broth, divided
- 1 cup of polenta
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium heat. Cut the sausage into bite-sized pieces and add to the butter. Fry until browned in places and then remove from the pan.
Cut the pepper and onion into about ½-inch slices. Add the vegetables to the pan with the melted butter and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables are soft (approx. 4-5 minutes). Stir in the tomato paste followed by a cup of chicken broth and stir to blend. Put the cooked sausage back in the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan while you prepare the polenta.
For the polenta, mix the polenta with the remaining two cups of stock and one cup of water. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth (about 1-2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of butter and parmesan. Season to taste and add more salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, place the polenta in a bowl and cover with the sausage and paprika mixture. Top with a little parmesan if you like.