Monday, September 21, 2009

A recipe you can burn: Roasted Bell Peppers

It turns out I love recipes that ask you to burn things. (Well, technically 'char', but whatever). Let's be honest, baking is an ordeal. You want to pull those cookies out just before they are done so they can finish on the sheet, but then they don't look done, so you put them back in the oven for a minute, and pull them out again, and... the cookies are overdone. And these are just cookies! Don't get me started on cake.

So, the fact that this recipe for roasted peppers asks you to burn, okay 'char', the peppers delights me to no end.

Also delightful about this: at the end of it, you have roasted peppers. So many possibilities for these gems. One of my favorites: on pizza. Emmanuelle and I actually made these peppers for a pizza topping in January.
Another marvelous use: as bruschetta. While people may be accustomed to regular tomato bruschetta, wait til they have this. And with tomato season waning, a non-tomato bruschetta alternative is most welcome. See below for the recipe.

More uses: in a sandwich, on a salad, pureed in a soup, as a soup garnish, over any sort of meat, in pasta, as a snack by themselves. This go round, I made 5 peppers so I could have enough to freeze. We'll see if they make it that long.

The recipe, while a little bit time consuming, is very easy. And, I think, worth it. These are so much better than jarred peppers you buy in the store.

First, lay your peppers on a baking sheet. How pretty are these?
Put them in the oven until they are burnt.
Take them out of the oven, put them in a bowl, and cover the bowl with foil. You let that sit for 30 minutes.
See that steam? It loosens the skin on the peppers and allows you to peel it right off. Trust me, you don't want to rush this part. If you do, not only are the skins awfully difficult to get off, you'll burn your fingers. It hurts.

Now, they are ready to go.

So, peel them.
Seed them.
A trash bowl is excellent in circumstances such as these.
(I actually rarely cook anything without a trash bowl. Just put a bowl next to your cooking area and throw all your seeds, peels, egg shells, et cetera in it. Try it; you will never go back.)

This is what the pepper will look like when it is peeled and seeded.
Cut them into strips. This is fun.
Toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. If you want, and I highly recommend it, give the peppers a splash of balsamic. Seriously, I am fairly certain roasted peppers are in love with balsamic. The flavor combination is fantastic and the acid cuts everything really nicely.
Now, you have a pile of gorgeous peppers on your hands to use as you will.

Basic Roasted Peppers (adapted from Ina Garten)
1-5 bell peppers, preferably orange and red (the yellow ones tend to burn quicker)

Preheat the oven to 500. Place peppers on sheet (do not overlap). Bake 30-40 minutes, turning twice until completely charred and skins are loose. Remove from pan into a bowl. Cover with aluminum foil for 30 minutes. Seed, peel, and cut into strips.

Toss them with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. If you want (and why wouldn't you?), given them a splash of balsamic vinegar. Or add some variation of the mix found in the following bruschetta recipe.

Roasted Pepper Bruschetta (adapted from Ina Garten)
4 roasted bell peppers
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon balsamic
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons capers (optional)
Julienned basil (optional)

For the crostini:
Thin slices (1/4-1/3 inch) of baguette, ciabatta, or other rustic bread
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic cloves, halved (optional)

After peppers have been seeded, peeled, and cut into stripss, add the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

For the crostini, preheat the oven to 375. Arrange your slices of bread on a baking sheet, don't overlap. Drizzle olive oil over the bread. Toast in the oven about 7-8 minutes, until the bread is slightly golden. Remove and, if you want, rub each slice 3 or 4 times with a garlic clove. The heat from the bread will cause the garlic clove to melt and cover the bread with its delicious oil. These can be made a day ahead and stored in an air tight container.

This bruschetta is fabulous plain, but if you want to jazz it up, try serving it with some gorgonzola or goat cheese.

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