This happens whenever a new book of mine is published: almost immediately, a recipe from the book rises up and claims MVP status; it becomes my go-to dish, the one I make for cooking classes and demos, and to serve at book signings, talks, tastings, and other events.
It is often a personal favorite, but it has other, more important attributes. For one thing, it must be easy enough to make for a crowd, and easy enough to transport. It needs to be able to sit out for awhile without suffering ill effects ~ no wilting or turning brown or drying out. And it should please a wide variety of palates.
My go-to recipe for Big Night In was the Sea Salt and Rosemary Sweet Potato Chips; for The Glorious Pasta of Italy it was the Gemelli with Fresh Herbs and Chopped Olives. And for Preserving Italy, the recipe for Sweet-and-Sour Roasted Peppers with Capers has quickly emerged as the MVP.
My family really loved these when I tested them for the book. The peppers are first charred ~ either under the broiler or on the grill ~ and then marinated in an agrodolce (sweet and sour) brine with garlic, capers, and parsley. Finally, they’re packed in a jar and topped off with olive oil. The result? Peppers that are silky in texture and bright and assertive in flavor.
Charring and cleaning the peppers is an onerous task but can be done ahead of time and is worth the effort, as the flavor of freshly roasted peppers is so much better than the bottled ones you find at the grocery store. I char eight peppers at a time by arranging them on a rimmed baking sheet and popping them under the broiler, turning them as needed. Then I let them sit until they are cool enough for me to remove the skins, seeds, and innards. (Lately I’ve been doing this while watching early-round matches of Wimbledon, which makes the chore almost enjoyable.)
These home-bottled peppers are pretty and they’re versatile. For most events I’ve been dolloping them on crostini, sometimes on their own, sometimes with fresh ricotta or mozzarella. But at home I use them in countless other dishes. They go with almost anything on the grill ~ steak, sausages, lamb chops, swordfish, tuna, chicken. I put them on pizza and in frittatas, and in my favorite summer dish, insalata di riso.
NOTE: Because these peppers are cured in oil rather than in a vinegar brine, I don’t process them in a boiling water bath. Instead, I store them in the refrigerator, where they will keep for up to 3 months.
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
UPCOMING EVENTS: The Preserving Italy tour is in full swing. If you are in the vicinity, please join me at one of these events. And please check my Events calendar for more to come.
JULY 2: Tasting and book signing at La Cuisine, Old Town Alexandria, VA; 12-2 p.m. More info here.
JULY 12: Hands-on Homemade Italian Liqueurs Class at Red Barn Mercantile, Old Town Alexandria; 6-8 p.m. Learn how to make limoncello and berry liqueur. Bring home your liqueur and a signed book. Register here.
JULY 16: Homemade Italian Cooking Class at The Cook’s Warehouse, Atlanta, GA. I’m excited to be coming to Atlanta for this cooking demonstration class at the city’s premier cooking school. More info here.
* * * * * * *
There are still a couple of spots left for our Abruzzo Presto/Domenica Cooks culinary tour. Join us for a week-long immersion the food, culture, and landscape of this spectacular region. You can find the details on my tours page and please feel free to forward the link to friends and family with the travel bug.
* * * * * * *
Peppers were a a New World import to Italy. And yet, the sweet and pungent aroma of roasting peppers is, to me, the aroma of Italy. Serve these peppers as an antipasto to serve with cheese and salumi, on top of crostini, as a side to grilled or roasted meats, or as a pizza topping. This recipe is from Preserving Italy: Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions.
- 8 ripe bell peppers (red, yellow, orange, green)
- 2 tablespoons tiny (non-pareil) capers
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced paper-thin
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Set an oven rack 4 inches below the broiler and preheat the broiler. Have on hand 2 sterilized 1-pint jars and their lids (see NOTE).
Place the peppers on a rimmed baking sheet and broil, turning every couple of minutes with tongs, until they are blistered and somewhat blackened on all sides. (Or you can char the peppers on a grill.) Transfer them to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let them steam for about 10 minutes.
Lay a pepper on a cutting board near the sink and cut or gently pull out the stem. Let any juice from the pepper drain into the sink. Peel off the skin, which should slip off easily. Cut the pepper in half and scrape out the innards. Cut the halves lengthwise into thin strips. If you like, cut the strips into dice to make "confetti." Transfer the peppers to a heat-proof bowl and stir in the capers and parsley.
Bring the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and garlic to a boil in a saucepan set over medium-high heat. Boil the brine for 2 minutes to dissolve the sugar and salt, and then pour it over the peppers. Let steep for 1 hour.
Drain the peppers, reserving a little of the brine. Pack the peppers into the jars. Spoon 1 tablespoon brine over the peppers; then fill each jar with enough oil to cover the peppers completely. Cover tightly and let the peppers sit at cool room temperature for 24 hours. Check to make sure the peppers are still submerged; if not, add more oil.
Store the peppers in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. To serve, remove from the jar only as much as you plan to use and let it come to room temperature. Top off the jar with more oil as necessary to keep the remaining peppers submerged.
Sterilizing the jars before filling them will prevent bacterial growth. Wash the jars in warm, soapy water. Place them on a rack in a 280 F oven for 30 minutes. Or immerse them in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.