Last week I made myself a nice peppers and egg white sandwich for dinner. Just the smell of the sizzling peppers immediately took me back to when I was a kid, visiting my grandparents on Saturday afternoon. My grandfather would always have a big frying pan of peppers and eggs going on the stove. My grandmother would fix it up in a roll for me, just in time to watch Dr. Shock's weekly monster movie. And we still tell the story of when we were working the church flea market one Saturday afternoon. Like Superman, Grandpop showed up just in time with some peppers and eggs sandwiches for lunch. Ah, the good ol' days!
As with many Italian and Italian-American families, peppers and eggs are a staple. Breakfast, lunch, dinner...you name it. It's simple, old-world comfort food. My friend Lorraine calls it Italian Soul Food. I love that! For many of us, it also represents a way of life. Your principal handed you the diploma when you graduated. But it was the peppers and eggs sandwich that you mom brown-bagged and handed to you on your first day of work that REALLY meant you were entering the real world.
Of course, peppers and eggs are just one example of Italian Soul Food. My mom would always say, "as long as you have eggs and a vegetable in your fridge, you'll have yourself a meal." This goes for asparagus and eggs, spinach and eggs, potatoes and eggs...you name it*. Potatoes and eggs are still part of our regular rotation. Hot dogs and eggs (the poor man's ham and eggs) were a favorite dish when I was growing up, and my grandfather would often make the triple-threat...peppers, hot dogs and eggs!
Now, some of you may be wondering...what the difference is between these dishes and an omelette? Think of it as marinara sauce versus Sunday gravy (for a better understanding, check out my Sunday Gravy post). I love me a nice breakfast omelette. You crack a few eggs, scramble them up and add some bacon, tomatoes, peppers...whatever you like. It's quick, like a marinara. The Italian Soul Food version, however, requires some love and patience, like a Sunday gravy. You're also working in reverse order. You start by heating up some oil in a large pan and adding some garlic. Then you add your chopped up vegetables, season to your liking and let them slowly cook up until tender. You can also season the chopped vegetables with onion and garlic powders, some salt and pepper and whatever other seasonings you prefer, prior to frying. This method works particularly well with potatoes. At this point you'll have a heavenly smell wafting in your house, one that not even the best omelette would ever leave behind. Finally, you scramble up some eggs (I prefer to use egg whites for a lower cholesterol version) with salt and pepper and a teaspoon of grated parmesan cheese, then add them to the pan. Stir all ingredients together until eggs are done. The eggs are actually secondary in taste, but play an important role. They're the glue that hold everything else together. Grab yourself a nice roll, and you have yourself a sandwich that will rival any hoagie or cheese steak around!
* You can use egg whites to keep these dishes more heart healthy!