Make a super grilled side dish with these fire-roasted red peppers
In today's "Home with the Lost Italian," Sarah Nasello says the season of fire-roasted flavor has arrived, and we are here for every single bite of it. And, she's got just the recipe to bring some Sicilian flavors to your meal.
Last week I featured a recipe for Spanish Spice Grilled Sirloin Skewers, and this week I have the perfect side dish to pair with the beef: Super Sicilian Roasted Red Peppers.
I call this dish “super” Sicilian because it is abundant with some of Sicily’s boldest flavors — red peppers, anchovies, capers, garlic, Kalamata olives and fresh basil.
My recipe calls for four red bell peppers, but be warned: you may want to double this as these peppers tend to quickly disappear. The red peppers are quartered and seeded, then tossed with good extra-virgin olive oil, coarse salt and black pepper. This is the only salt in the recipe, as the anchovies, olives and capers provide enough salt for the final seasoning.
I roast the sliced peppers on the grill over an open flame until their skins are deeply charred. This process caramelizes the peppers and enhances their natural sugars to give them an incredible depth of flavor.
Once cooled, I use my hands to remove the charred skin from the peppers, leaving just the stubborn, tiny bits that refuse to come off (for extra flavor).
Next, I cut the pepper slices lengthwise into strips about a quarter to half an inch wide. At this point, you could enjoy them with just a splash of good olive oil, a little basil and seasoning, but I encourage you to level up your bell pepper game by adding my mix of Sicilian flavor-building ingredients.
Anchovies are a terrific way to build flavor in a dish, and for this recipe I use three anchovy fillets. I chop the fillets as finely as possible, so that they fill the dish with their salty umami without leaving a fishy aftertaste. If you do not mention the anchovies, no one will even know they are there.
The briny saltiness from the anchovies and capers is the perfect complement to the bold, fire-roasted sweetness of the red peppers. These ingredients are further enhanced by the addition of one thinly sliced clove of garlic, a quarter cup of roughly chopped Kalamata olives and a generous amount of fresh basil. I slice the garlic as thin as possible, which helps to mellow its heat as the dish marinates.
Every ingredient in this dish matters, so it is important to use the best quality you can find for each component. I use my best extra-virgin olive oil (Mistra Estates) for dishes like this, where the oil plays an essential role in the overall flavor.
Finding good, fresh olives can be a challenge in our region, so I purchased a good-quality jar brand, but in other markets I would seek out an oil-cured variety of black olives.
The strips of red bell pepper are tossed with the olive oil, minced anchovies, capers, Kalamata olives, garlic and fresh basil, and then I let the mixture sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving. This allows time for the flavors to meld together, and they will continue to develop over time — so the longer you let the dish rest, the better it will taste.
Aromatic, savory and delicious, these Super Sicilian Roasted Red Peppers are terrific on their own or atop a piece of grilled meat or bread. The season of fire-roasted flavor has arrived, and we are here for every single bite of it.
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Super Sicilian Roasted Red Peppers
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Serves: 4 to 6
4 red bell peppers
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained and finely minced
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
¼ cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
4 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
Before you begin, make sure your grill is clean, hot and well-lubricated with vegetable oil. Preheat grill to hot and keep the lid closed until ready to grill.
Cut bell peppers in half, lengthwise, then remove stems and seeds. Cut each half lengthwise again into 2 pieces. In a medium bowl, toss sliced bell pepper with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil until combined.
Place pepper slices directly on the hot grill, skin side down. Grill for 2 minutes without disturbing, then use tongs to turn peppers over and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Repeat this process until each slice is blistered and browned all over, about 5 to 6 minutes per side, or 10 to 12 minutes total.
Transfer grilled peppers to a baking sheet or cutting board and cool for 30 minutes. Use your hands to remove as much charred skin as you can, leaving only small pieces that do not easily come off (these will add even more flavor to the final dish). Do not rinse grilled peppers under water.
In a medium-sized, shallow serving dish, stir remaining olive oil with anchovies, capers, olives and basil until combined.
Tear or cut each bell pepper slice into strips 1/4 to 1/2-inch wide and place them in the dish with the anchovy mixture. Gently stir to combine, then let bell peppers sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving.
This dish may be made up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve.
Recipe Time Capsule:
This week in...
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Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.