Lately, I have been craving grilled food. It has been months since the last time I saw grillmarks on my food, or was lulled to sleep on a warm, tipsy, Brooklyn night by the aroma of charcoal lingering in my hair.
In November, I came close at a restaurant we will call Sashimi Rumba.* My appetizer was a small plate of grilled shisito peppers. They are like the Italian pepper’s non-spicy baby cousin. Char-grilled and tossed in a quick marinade, the result were gorgeous, opalescent little morsels that tasted just like summer.
Fast-forward to yesterday at my local vegetable stand, and a basket of attractive, bright green (yet totally out-of-season), long Italian peppers. I had a whole-wheat tomato focaccia from Napoli Bakery, and needed toppings. These, grilled? Perfect.
This particular recipe is super-small. I roasted one lonely pepper, which was enough to top a 10″ focaccia. Feel free to multiply ingredients to suit your needs!
|1||Italian Pepper, 8-10” long|
|1 tsp||extra virgin olive oil|
|1 tsp||balsamic vinegar|
Over high heat, char the pepper directly over an open flame until mostly blackened. If the stem is not long enough, use tongs so that you don’t get burned.
Transfer to a cutting board and split the pepper lengthwise. Pull out and discard the white ribs that contain the seeds, slice the pepper into strips and transfer to a bowl.
Toss in the remaining ingredients and serve.
My favorite part of this recipe is that you get to keep the blackened skin, which would get peeled off and discarded if you were making traditional roasted peppers. The marinade softens its texture and flavor, which by itself might be too pungent.
If you have an electric range or are freaked-out by the idea of cooking food over your stove’s gas flame, you can alternately roast the peppers in the oven. You could also one-up this recipe and char them in your fireplace, if you have one.
Try these tender, juicy strips in a sandwich with avocado, tomato and arugula. Tossed in cashew cream, they can pass for Mexican rajas, my favorite taco filling. For a nice, lazy appetizer, serve alongside slices of crusty bread.
(*Name of restaurant has been changed to discourage patronage. The manager told the hostess of the dinner we were not collectively “attractive enough” to get the bachelorette party discount they promised her on the phone. ‘Nuff said.)