Stewed Sweet Peppers with Onions and Garlic

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 plump garlic cloves, minced
3 large red peppers, or a combination of red and yellow peppers, thinly sliced or chopped
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, drained of some but not all of its juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet or heavy casserole over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes, and add the garlic and peppers. Cook, stirring often, for five minutes, and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook for another five minutes until the peppers are tender.

Add the tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper, bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer, stirring from time to time, until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat, about 10 minutes. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer over low heat for another 15 to 20 minutes (or longer), stirring from time to time, until the mixture is thick and fragrant. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve as a side dish, as a topping for pizza, pasta, polenta, rice or bruschetta, as a filling for an omelet, or stir into scrambled eggs.

Variations of this dish appear throughout the Mediterranean region. The Basque piperade — made with slender, slightly piquant peppers called piments d?espelette and stirred into scrambled eggs along with bayonne ham — has some heat, while Italian peperonata is sweet through and through. A North African variety, chakchouka, is spiced with fiery harissa and a blend of caraway, coriander, cayenne and garlic, and it usually is served with eggs poached right on top of the stew.

For French Piperade, substitute one large green pepper, or two small ones, for one of the red peppers. Add one minced jalape?o or serrano chile. At the end of step two, beat six to eight eggs in a bowl and stir into the pepper mixture. Cook, stirring over low heat, until the eggs are just set but still creamy. Remove from the heat, divide among four plates, and serve.

For North African Chakchouka – Use two green peppers, two red peppers, and two Anaheim peppers. Increase the tomatoes to 1 1/2 pounds. Along with the tomatoes, stir in one teaspoon harissa or more to taste. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds, 1/4 teaspoon ground caraway seeds, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne. When the stew has cooked down to a thick, fragrant mixture, stir in two tablespoons of parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings. With the back of your spoon, make four depressions in the vegetables. Break an egg into each depression. Cover and cook for five to six minutes until the eggs are set. Sprinkle the eggs with salt, pepper and parsley, and serve.