I love Laurie Colwin’s down to earth, witty and friendly style, this is a matter of fact. I already told you about her in an old post about a potato, porcini and chestnut soup. What I didn’t tell you is that I owe my renewed love for peppers to a few pages she wrote in 1988 in her Home Cooking book.
She loved red peppers so much that once she was able to eat a large bag of them as she walked home from the store. She adored red peppers fried in olive oil more than almost anything else. She described shapes, colours and recipes and she swore by the marriage of peppers and anchovies, as they were made for each other.
But it is her description of roasted peppers that won my heart.
Roast the pepper over the gas burner on a skewer or long fork. The skin of the pepper will char and turn black. This is always quite fascinating to watch. Turn the pepper until it is burnt all over and then rinse off the charred skin under cold water. This roasting cooks the pepper and gives it a silky texture. At the same time it brings out its smoky taste. Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking (1988)
According to Jane Griggson and her Vegetable book, India, Hungary, Italy and Spain had to await Columbus to develop what are now their most typical dishes. Peppers are indeed a close second to tomatoes in their association to Mediterranean food. It might be the colour, which reminds of sun flooded summers, or it might be the slightly sweet flavour which pairs beautifully with anchovies, oregano and capers.
Anna Del Conte, in her Gastronomy of Italy, tells us that today peppers are popular all over Italy and appreciated by leading chefs, who usually match peppers and pasta. How not to agree with this combination. Peppers are the star of many Italian signature dishes such as peperonata, roasted pepper crostini or rice stuffed peppers.
In the past, though, recipes with peppers were not common in cookery books as they were considered to be strictly peasant food. Ada Boni in the 1920 is probably the first one to offer a wide range of recipes with peppers in her Il Talismano della Felicità. Long live Ada Boni and her recipe for stuffed tomatoes!
I like to play it simple. I love to roast peppers just like Laurie Colwin described. I season them with a glug of olive oil, garlic, dried oregano, salt and pepper. Roasted peppers are a typical appetizer from Piedmont, even though I just love to keep them at hand, covered with olive oil in a bowl in the fridge.
I add them to green salads, boiled potatoes, roasted chicken, steamed green beans, chickpea cake and pizza.
- 2 red peppers
- 2 yellow peppers
- 1 green pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Dried oregano
Preheat oven to 200°C and set the grill mode.
Wash the peppers and place them whole onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Roast them until the skin is charred here and there, turning them with a fork to cook them evenly.
After about 20 minutes, remove the peppers from the oven – be careful with them, they usually contain a steaming cooking liquid – and close them into a plastic bag for at least an hour. This will help you to peel them easily.
After an hour, when they are completely cooled down, peel the peppers, rinse off the charred skin, remove the seeds and cut them into strips.
Gather the peppers into a bowl, season with extra virgin olive oil, one crushed clove of garlic, salt, freshly ground black pepper and dried oregano to taste.
Let them in the fridge for a few hours to enhance their flavours until you are ready to serve them.
Roasted pepper cheese toastie
In my frenzy to add roasted peppers to every possible food, I prepared a cheese toastie with sourdough bread, milky mozzarella and a few strips of roasted tomatoes. I can not think at a better way to say goodbye to summer.
Eat the cheese toastie steaming hot, directly from the pan, and share only if necessary!
- 8 slices of sourdough bread
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 250 g of mozzarella
- Roasted peppers
Brush both sides of the bread slices with olive oil both sides.
Tear the mozzarella into bite sized pieces and arrange it on top of each slice of bread.
Heat a non-stick frying-pan or cast iron pan and when it is very hot lay the bread in the pan, with mozzarella on top. Place a fillet of roasted pepper on top of each slice of bread.
Toast the bread and when it begins to brown, top it with another toasted slice of bread, matching mozzarella with mozzarella.
Cook for a few minutes on each side, pressing the cheese toastie to turn it into a golden brown marvel with a melting cheesy heart.
Make sure you do not burn it and serve steaming hot straight from the pan.
Peperoni vs pepperoni
The Italian name for peppers, bell peppers or capsicum, is peperoni. Isn’t it so similar to the word pepperoni? So remember that when you order pizza con I peperoni in Italy you will get a pizza topped with roasted peppers, not with what you usually associate to the word pepperoni, a spicy Italian sausage. Search on the menu for a pizza con salamino piccante if you want the spicy salami!
- Rachel Roddy’s peperonata. Like so many dishes – and like me – peperonata is better after a rest, after which it is like the friend you can take anywhere.
- This is probably my favourite movie food scene ever. Jon Favreau in Chef preparing a grilled cheese sandwich for his son. Please watch at full volume as you don’t want to lose part of the charm. I dare you not to get hungry when he slices the sandwich!
- Jamie Oliver’s No.1 toasted cheese sandwich. A toasted cheese sandwich is a beautiful thing, but I’m not messing about here – this is the ultimate one and it’s going to blow your mind.
- A round up of perfect cheese toasties with secrets revealed by experts.