Filled with homegrown flavor: North Scranton man's Stuffed Cherry Peppers fresh from the garden

Aug. 27—Paul Cimino doesn't have to travel far to find fresh peppers.

The North Scranton resident only needs to step into his backyard garden, where he estimates having 60 to 70 pepper plants alone this summer spanning several varieties.

It's Cimino's cherry peppers that make the appetizer he shared with Local Flavor so delectable.

It's hard to have just one of Cimino's Stuffed Cherry Peppers. Filled with prosciutto and sharp provolone, he coats the peppers in a savory marinade.

"I usually like to make about four quarts at a time," he said. "Believe me when I tell you they don't last."

Cimino started making Stuffed Cherry Peppers at least 30 years ago, and he's known among family and friends for his inventive pepper dishes. Local Flavor even featured his recipe for Sausage Stuffed Jalapeños in 2016.

While working in sales, Cimino got the idea for Stuffed Cherry Peppers from colleagues who made the dish a little differently. Through trial and error, he came up with his own method.

Every summer as his garden flourishes, Cimino makes the stuffed peppers in bulk with help from his wife, Diane, who typically grates the cheese.

"We have it down to a science," he said.

For this recipe, he picks 60 or so cherry peppers from his garden. Cimino advised cooks to use fresh peppers instead of peppers from a jar, which he said often get drowned in vinegar and overpowered by the taste.

"That's the most important part — the peppers," he said. "Fresh peppers."

Cooks also need 1 pound each of prosciutto and shredded sharp provolone.

Start by coring the peppers and removing the seeds. Cimino usually cleans the peppers one day, then stuffs and marinates them the next day. Place a small amount of provolone in each pepper.

"I put a little bit in every pepper down at the bottom," Cimino said.

To make the stuffing, lay down four overlapping prosciutto slices on a cutting board, then sprinkle provolone on top and roll it up. Cimino usually prepares five or six rolls before he starts stuffing.

Slice the rolls into pieces and stuff them into the opening of the peppers. Place the stuffed peppers into clean quart jars.

"We found that rolling them up and shredding the cheese is the best way to go," Cimino said. "You get the most flavor out of them, and it's not one big hunk of cheese in the middle. It's all mixed together."

Before it's time to marinate, place about one teaspoon of chopped garlic and pinches of rosemary and thyme in each jar.

Cimino's homemade marinade uses a blend of oregano, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, sugar, basil, black pepper, paprika, red pepper flakes, thyme and celery seed.

Combine that with olive oil and water to finish the marinade, then pour it into the jars and shake them up.

"You could use a light vinegar if you like, but they're not going to keep as long," he said.

To store the peppers, flip the jars upside down in the refrigerator. The olive oil will congeal, forming a seal that keeps the air out. Without vinegar, the peppers will last a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, Cimino said.

For years, the peppers have been a hit in Cimino's circles. He's been gardening since his childhood, grows everything from seed and considers the garden his happy place.

Along with peppers, Cimino grows tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, beans, garlic, basil and more. Shopping at the farmers market is great, but it's even better when it comes out of your own backyard, he said.

"You're never as close to God as when you're working in the garden," Cimino said.

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