Most of the time, I don’t choose the recipes I share here, they choose me. I’ll be bumming around, reading my epics, keeping to myself when suddenly the urge for rhubarb muffins will come upon me, and I will have no choice but to address it, or remain distracted until I break down and, you know, address it. Other times, the market controls me, as will happen when you live in a climate that deprives you of field-fresh produce for over half the year, leaving you to go completely berserk and overdo it in the months that you’re graced with it, bringing home buckets when you only have enough stomachs in your family to require a small armload. But with a 20 months of parenting under my belt, I’m long overdue to introduce a new reason to cook: my toddler; he’s got cravings too.
It started one night at Motorino when he was in the middle of another of his
hunger strikes conscientious dissenting against his mama’s cooking phases where he’s just not that hungry and we ordered both the roasted pepper salad and appetizer meatballs in hopes to quietly tempt him into eradicating crankiness through the consumption of life-sustaining calories enjoying good food. And lordy, he went nuts for the peppers. Slurp, slurp, slurp, it was hard to believe that just hours before he’d overturned his lunch in disgust. A week later, we returned (I’m currently fixated on a certain pizza, you see) and the peppers elicited the same reaction. And so it only made sense that I would recreate the dish at home.
I’m an antipasti kinda cook in the summer, which is to say, I’m happy to avoid turning on the oven whenever I can. It’s only the first week of June, but somehow stickier than late July in New York City right now. If I can make a big batch of something marinated and we can arrange platefuls of it — along with a baguette, cured meats, cheese and a green salad — at dinner each night until its gone, I absolutely will. However, I will turn on the oven for one thing, and that is to roast my peppers for the better part of an hour. I prefer this over blistering them on the stove, which makes them easy to peel but not supple and sweetly cooked as they get in the oven. After peeling their skin and cutting them into strips, I let them sit overnight in some salt, pepper, garlic and red wine vinegar which punched up their flavor a bit. When we’re ready to eat it, we add a bit more vinegar if needed, olive oil and slice fresh mozzarella on top. Well, I’m using the term “we” loosely as parents of toddlers probably know how it went when this was served: “Roasted peppers? Yuck!” Hey, more for us!
One year ago: Lamb Chops with Pistachio Tapenade and Strawberry Ricotta Graham Tartlets
Two years ago: Lemon Mint Granita and Pickled Sugar Snap Peas
Three years ago: Potato Pizza and Breakfast Apricot Crisp
Four years ago: Spring Vegetable Stew and Gateau de Crepes
Marinated Roasted Peppers with Capers and Mozzarella
Makes about 4 cups of marinated peppers
6 bell peppers (if you can get a mix of colors, go for it)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
1/2 pound ball of mozzarella, sliced (this is a great place to use the really fresh stuff, if you can get it)
Roast the peppers: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line peppers on a large baking sheet and roast them for 45 minutes to 1 hour, using tongs to rotate them 1/4 of the way, rotisserie-style, every 15 minutes. It’s safer to extend the cooking time than shorten it, as the skins will only come off easily if they’re fully cooked.
Once they’re fully roasted, cover the pepper tray with another piece of foil and let the peppers cool. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove the skins. Remove seeds and slice sections of pepper into 1/4-inch wide strips.
Toss peppers with red wine vinegar, garlic and a few pinches of salt. Cover and let marinate for an hour or overnight (and up to 4 days) in the fridge.
To serve, arrange peppers on a plate. Adjust seasonings, adding salt, freshly ground black pepper or additional vinegar, to taste. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with capers and parsley and arrange mozzarella over salad.
Eat with some crusty bread and a glass of wine, preferably al fresco.