There are many ways you can roast peppers. While in Italy, we used to build a wood fire in a fire pit and allow the embers to burn down white hot. We would then place the whole red peppers directly on top of the fire and cover them with more twigs and branches and allow them to burn. Once the peppers where charred black, we would pick them out of the embers, place them onto a plate and bring them into the kitchen to peel and prepare. The wood smoked flavor of these peppers were amazing.
A cook out in Italy was always a great experience. On a visit to Calabria we spent a day at the Nocera Terinese Marina, right on the Golfo di Sant’Eufernia. We had the beach all to our selves. This was back in 1983. I understand today the marina is a lot more popular, part of the Italian riviera. But back then we practically had the place to ourselves. We set up shelter and prepared a fire. First thing to go on the fire was a huge pot full of water. For what else? The macaroni! No matter where or when you ate, you had to have pasta with the meal. And a cook out was no different. We roasted peppers, eggplant, everything went on that fire. There wasn’t a hot dog or hamburger within 300 miles. And I didn’t miss them.
Whether we were at the beach or in the mountains, someone would start a fire, and the big pot would come out for the pasta. We would haul water from a local well and the macaroni was cooked. That was all that mattered. And of course, the roasted peppers. One of my uncles would venture off into the woods to find mushrooms. He would come back with a bag full of the wild fungi. I asked him, “you ever pick a poisonous one?” He would look at me with a smile and say in Italian, “I’ve been doing this for 60 years and have not picked a poison mushroom yet”. I trusted him. He knew his stuff.
When I got home to Rockland County, I dug my own fire pit and surrounded it with rocks so I can roast my peppers this way. Once you peeled the peppers, any ash on the pepper goes away with the peel.
If you don’t want to fire roast your peppers you can always place them on the BBQ grill over hot coals and roast till charred. Or you can broil them in the oven, keeping your eye on them and turn so they blacken evenly all over. Without charring the peppers black they would be impossible to peel. Allow the peppers to cool before you peel them.
Peppers prepared this way make a great appetizer served with plenty of fresh Italian bread. Add a bowl of fresh tomato salad with chopped basil and garlic and extra virgin olive oil and a dish of Italian cheese and olives and you have the making of a great light summer meal. If you’re grilling Italian sausages, these peppers make a great accompaniment. If you are making a sandwich with the sausages just place them in a fresh Italian roll or piece of Italian bread and top the sausages with these peppers. Drizzle some of the oil on the bread and you have the making of a great sandwich.
I usually serve these peppers in a small bowl surrounded with provolone cheese, olives and sliced dried salami and sopressata. If you have some homemade eggplant caponata or eggplant with mint this makes a great antipasto.
- 5 red peppers, washed and left whole
- 1 clove garlic, minced fine
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 fresh basil leaf, chopped fine
Roast the whole peppers over an open flame until the skin is charred black all around the pepper. Place the peppers in a brown paper bag and leave 20 minutes to cool. The brown paper bag will absorb most of the moisture away from the peppers.
Once the peppers have cooled, peel of the charred skin and scape off the seeds from inside the pepper.
Pull off the stem and slice each pepper into 1/2 inch thin strips.
While the peppers are still warm, add the chopped garlic, olive oil, basil and salt and pepper. Mix well and allow to marinate at room temperature for an hour before serving.
I LOVE THESE THINGS!