As autumn conquers summer, and I stroll through the Union Square Farmer’s Market, I start to panic and worry about all the fruits and vegetables I didn’t buy during those precious few warm-weather months. Which explains why, during one Saturday saunter, I came home with four giant red peppers.
I didn’t really have a red pepper agenda, but after watching this red pepper video on Food52 I decided I wanted to roast them. Then marinate them. And who knew that from that simple act I’d get three more dishes: a sandwich, a salad, and a gussied-up mac & cheese?
What you’ve got to know about roasting red peppers is that the mere act of cooking them over an open flame makes them better. A lot better. Some foods don’t get better when they’re cooked (peak summer tomatoes come to mind) but red peppers get sweeter and more intense. And roasting them, the way I’m about to show you, isn’t just a great way to preserve them (which it is: they last a while, marinating in olive oil, in your fridge) but it’s a rather bad-ass, sparks a’flying way to show off to your significant other and/or your kids.
So do the following: cut off the stems of four red peppers and then plop them on to your gas burners. (If you don’t have gas burners, you can try doing this in the broiler or, better yet, on your grill.)
Crank up the heat and grab a pair of metal tongs. Allow the peppers to cook cook cook until they start to char, then rotate them around. The “dangerous” part (and note that “dangerous” is in quotes) is that some burnt bits may crackle off, glow orange and ash back down to earth. But that, unfortunately, is as rock n’roll as it gets.
When your red peppers are charred all over (see my lead photo) and they start to feel somewhat squishy and soft (it takes a while, 10 minutes or so), remove them to a bowl:
And cover, right away, with plastic wrap. This’ll keep the peppers cooking and steaming until they’re truly soft and tender. Also, it’ll make it a cinch to get the skins off.
Well. I didn’t find it a cinch to get the skins off. In that Food52 video, Merrill and Amanda make it look so easy. Maybe I didn’t blister my peppers enough? But it really didn’t matter; I just put the peppers on a cutting board, cut them into fat strips and then scraped a knife across the top until the skin came off. No biggie.
Then I prepared this marinade of good olive oil (1 cup), a big splash of red wine vinegar, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, salt-packed capers rehydrated, red pepper flakes and smashed kalamata olives:
In went the peppers:
And then it went covered into the refrigerator.
A few hours later, it was dinner time. I was testing a few recipes for my cookbook–a soup and a salad–and because it wasn’t a ton of food, I brought a baguette and some Asiago cheese from our latest Murray’s cheese shipment to the table. Here, as you can see, are the raw ingredients:
And here’s the sandwich we each made:
Those peppers gave such a wonderful, acidic, garlicky bite, they should become essential sandwich toppings from now on.
The next night, I decided to improvise a mac and cheese (more on that later?) and I added some of the roasted red peppers to the mix, chopped up into little strips:
Again, a triumph!
And finally, even when the peppers were gone, we had a red-pepper infused marinade to put on a salad (I just added a bit more vinegar, salt and pepper):
The possibilities are endless. And all it took were four red peppers from the farmer’s market, four open flames and a dream. Light the red pepper fire within you before it’s too late.