September 4, 2012
A Beautiful Sight
Over the winter, I finally got around to reading Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. I enjoyed her straightforward honest writing about food and eating both glorious and messy, satisfying and repulsive. Maybe because I was reading her book far away from summer, the chapter that stood out to me most was Red Peppers. She writes, "A large number of red peppers is a beautiful sight." I agree.
We harvest peppers about once a week at the farm. They ripen slowly but we have been picking hundreds of red, yellow, green and purple peppers at a time. This means that everyone gets a half dozen peppers or more each week and that is certainly beautiful. A pile of peppers seems like a luxury, considering that they are usually expensive at the store. I love their distinct flavor and being able to eat them freely since there are so many. They are sweet, crunchy and juicy and can be used in so many ways. I roast and freeze the less than perfect peppers, eat some of them sliced raw and use others in sauces.
I also discovered Romesco sauce last winter. It doesn't actually use a lot of peppers but it has a wonderful pepper flavor. Deborah Madison describes the sauce as piquant, a word that seems just right for this sauce that is sweet, tart with vinegar, and deliciously garlicky. The almonds, breadcrumbs, and olive oil make the sauce more substantial and give it a velvety texture.
It is great on roasted vegetables, with beans, and spread on bread or over polenta. It freezes well, like a red pepper and tomato pesto, and adds flavor to everything.
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
When I have left over bits of bread I try to make it into bread crumbs which I freeze and can use for things like this sauce, but you can also make the breadcrumbs right before you make the sauce.
1 slice bread or 1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 red pepper
1/2 cup almonds
3 garlic cloves
1 to 2 teaspoons chile or red pepper flakes
4 roma tomatoes (fresh or canned), cored
1 tablespoon parsley leaves
salt and pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
If you do not already have breadcrumbs, toast the bread until it is very dark. Let it cool and break into small pieces. Cut off the top of the pepper, remove the stem, seeds, and pulp, cut the pepper open and lay it flat on a baking sheet to roast in the oven until it is soft and cooked through. You can also toast the almonds while the pepper is roasting.
Place the toasted bread or breadcrumbs, toasted almonds, garlic, and chile in a food processor and grind into tiny pieces. Add the tomatoes, roasted pepper, parsley and salt and pepper and puree until smooth. While the machine is running, pour in the vinegar and then the olive oil. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
Makes about 3 cups. Keeps in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks and in the freezer for a few months.