Every southern European culture has its own mixed vegetable spread: Provence has ratatouille, Sicily, caponata. In Spain, you find the Catalan samfaina, the Andalusian alboronia, and pisto, which is popular in the rest of the country, especially in La Mancha and the Basque Country. Similar to ratatouille but minus the eggplant, the flavor of pisto is sweeter because of the red bell peppers and onion. Serve it as a spread for bread or toast, a base for canapés, or with fried or poached eggs. The Basques use pisto in endless imaginative canapés made with everything from anchovies, to smoked salmon, to ham, to poached quail eggs.
- Yield: 2 CUPS
- 0.33 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more if needed
- 1 large white onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium-size zucchini, peeled and cut into fine dice
- 2 medium-size ripe red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and diced
- 1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
- 4 medium-size garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press
- 3 large ripe tomatoes, cut in half and grated on a box grater, skins discarded
- ½ teaspoon best-quality red wine vinegar
- 1 pinch of sugar
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened but not browned, about 7 minutes. Add the zucchini and the red and green peppers. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes, adjusting the heat so that the vegetables don’t brown. Add a little more olive oil if the skillet looks dry. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to very low, and cook, covered, stirring often, until all the vegetables are very soft and the zucchini begins to disintegrate, 35 to 40 minutes. If the vegetables begin to stick to the skillet, add a tablespoon or so of water.
- Add the vinegar and sugar to the pisto, then season it with salt and black pepper to taste. Let the pisto cool to room temperature, then serve.