Tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers grew in abundance in my father’s garden, thriving on the heat and humidity of the long New Jersey summers. I was surprised to learn that some people don’t realize that green peppers and red peppers are in fact the same—they start green and turn red when they ripen. They’re great either way, of course. But there’s one thing you can do with red peppers that you really can’t do with the green: roast them over a grill. The heat intensifies the natural sweetness of the peppers—in fact, I used to call these “candy peppers” because they’re so sweet (and you can get kids to try almost anything if you call it candy).
This dish is quintessentially Italian: very few ingredients, very simply prepared. You need to start with fresh ripe peppers—they need to be firm enough to hold up to the cooking. The skin will blacken and bubble, making it easy to peel off (some folks say that if you place them in a paper bag for a little while, the skins come off easier, but I’ve never found that to be necessary). It’s best to roast them on a grill outside, but you can also char them under the broiler (or right on top of the stove burner, in a pinch). Be aware that they will probably have some liquid in them, so cut the tops off over the sink and pour it out to avoid making a mess.
What you need
Red peppers, 2 or 3
Garlic, 1 clove, finely minced
Herbs: thyme, oregano, basil, salt
Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
How you make it
- Add the garlic and herbs to the oil and mix well.
- Grill the peppers over an open flame until brown on all sides.
- When the peppers are cool enough to handle, cut off the tops, peel off the burnt skin, scrape out the seeds, and cut the peppers into strips.
- Toss the pepper strips in the oil with the garlic and herbs.
- Let sit at least until cool, or refrigerate for a few hours.
Grilled peppers make an attractive and tasty antipasto. I usually serve them with olives and sharp cheese. I typically scrape off the larger pieces of garlic before arranging them on a plate. These will keep for a while in the fridge—but they never last more than a day or two in my house! They also make a great addition to sandwiches.