Cruschi Fried Dried Peppers
In the area of Lucania in the southern region of Basilicata, locals refer to these nutty, aromatic peppers as cruschi.
Peperone di Senise are a local, I.G.P. Basilicata sweet pepper variety, which are up to six inches in length. They are harvested throughout the sweltering summer months—from the end of July until the end of September—when they are perfectly ripe, hanging heavy on the plant, and turning a deep red color with a glossy shine.
Harvesting is labor intensive, as the peppers are picked entirely by hand, placed in large baskets, and brought by foot to a large shed. They are strung into large wreaths (called serte) and placed into open-walled sheds to dry for 20-25 days. When the peppers are dry and wrinkled, the wreaths are carefully dismantled by hand and the peppers are fried in local olive oil until the skin is brick red with a crispy texture.The peppers are then packed and stored for use over the winter months in many different ways.
These aromatic, crunchy peppers bring a new complexity of flavors to winter greens, braised and roasted meats. Crushed in your hands, they make the best topping for any seafood pasta dish. Cruschi are often coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle and sprinkled over eggs fried in olive oil. They also add incredible flavor to the classic spaghetti aglio, olio e pepperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers).