The cool nights and crisp days of fall may have reached the Northeast, but that hasn’t lessened the flow of tomatoes and sweet bell peppers at my local farmers’ market, piled up in red and gold profusion.
Unlike their peak-summer counterparts, these autumnal specimens can be soft and a bit wrinkly at the edges. While no longer ideal for tossing raw in salads and slaws, they’re still full of flavor and perfectly suited to long, slow simmering into stews, soups and silky sauces.
When cooked until their flesh practically melts, bell peppers and tomatoes become velvety and rich, condensing and sweetening as their juices thicken and bubble away.
The two make up the backbone of this heady skillet chicken, where they’re simmered down into something that’s halfway between a sauce and a side dish.
Because both peppers and tomato turn so sweet in the pan, I like to include a bright, briny element to balance them. A handful of torn green olives does the job here, offering contrast and a tangy bite. But you can use capers, pickled pepperoncini or other pickled vegetables, or even some crumbled feta if olives are not your thing.
Once that’s ready, it can accompany almost anything. Adding protein turns it into a satisfying meal, whether you reach for pork chops or fish, tempeh or tofu, or eggs that have been scrambled, fried or even poached right in the sauce. (Shakshuka is born of this same basic technique.) For a lighter nibble, spoon the rich stew over crostini, maybe topped with a cloud of ricotta to make it that much plusher.
Or you could take this weeknight route and add chicken thighs. When seared until their skins crisp and render a sheen of brawny fat, they’ll lend richness along with sustenance.
Cooked as written, the sauce will probably turn out on the brothy side, great for pouring over rice or couscous, or for sopping up with hunks of soft-crumbed bread. But if you are looking for something heartier, remove the chicken pieces from the pan once they’re cooked, then simmer to reduce the sauce, stirring occasionally, for another 5 to 8 minutes. Return chicken to pan and stir in olives, then garnish with herbs to serve.
It will be a cozy meal to warm up a chilly evening — and just as tasty when the weather is warm.