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Piperade Basquaise

After seeing the Julie/Julia movie, I decided that I wanted to read more about Julia Child’s life, which is also partially why I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks. I picked up one biography that was written before her death and also the book in which Mrs. Child described her introduction to French food and the journey that created Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Unfortunately, this had the effect of making me long even more for an entire movie starring Meryl Streep as Julia. The dedication and passion with which Julia Child tackled this project and her determination that American cooks have a chance to learn about this wonderful cuisine made me feel not a little bit guilty that I haven’t tried to make things from her books more often.

While reading My Life in France, Julia mentions a dish called Piperade (on p. 183), that her friend Avis De Voto raved about. Aside from the general hunger pangs that reading these books caused, this reference was to a dish that I actually have made several times before which made me dig the recipe out of my own personal ‘archive.’ That and seeing late-summer tomatoes, ripe red peppers, and fragrant basil at the Greenmarket inspired me to put the books down and to actually make something. The clipping is from The Sunday Times of London about 11 years ago.

I’ve made a couple of notes on the side, just so that I could remember what I liked about this dish and to distinguish it from the hundreds of other recipes that I pull out of magazines. Because Julia mentions making it, I consulted MAFC (p. 137, Volume 1). There (and in versions I found in my other French cookbooks) it talks about scrambling the eggs into the tomato-pepper mixture. As a personal choice, I don’t really like my eggs that way, so this take where the egg is cooked on top of the other ingredients better suits my tastes. It can also be used as a filling for an omelette.

I recommend using a 12-inch skillet to make this. That way, all the ingredients have space to cook without becoming too mushy. The raw peppers and tomatoes will end up reducing. In My Life in France, when going through the recipe testing process, Julia Child mentions some of the challenges in converting the recipes from French to American because even basic ingredients like flour are processed differently between the two countries. I’ve definitely had the same experience, but I’m happy to say that this recipe works well on both sides of the Atlantic.

At the end, you’ll have a special dish for brunch, to serve perhaps with a chunk of a baguette or thick slice of toasted country bread. The sweetness of the tomatoes and peppers is contrasted by the smoky-peppery pancetta (I used a commercially available package of this instead of the bacon) and the bite of the basil. I usually sprinkle a little bit of salt, black pepper, and extra basil on top to finish it. I also made this in a regular batch and then broke it up in smaller portions to be reheated in tapas pans. This would be another way to serve it to your guests or, in my case, to eat it over several days for an extra-nice weekday breakfast.

Buon appetito!

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