The fractured, cheek-chaffing weather has turned a corner. The first demure buds begin stretching their limbs, awakening from a subterranean slumber. Instantaneously I begin craving grilled foods. But New York City life, for us, means no grill. I yearn for food that’s been kissed by hot coals, drenched in fiery goodness, ensconced in flames.
Though I tend to eschew red peppers in the raw, roasting them on high heat renders their sweetness, releasing an aroma akin to a feverous campfire. Scorch peppers on high heat and you get burnt, charred, bubbly skin. Cooking them removes the mild bitterness I dislike bestowing a sweet earthiness, their natural crunchiness making way for soft, tender flesh.
There are endless ways to utilize roasted red peppers but my favorite is marinated in fruity extra virgin olive oil, pungent raw garlic, spicy chili pepper flakes and sour lemon slices. Leave them to sit overnight in a mason jar so the flavors meld.
To make marinated roasted red peppers, remove them from the oven, blackened and blistered. Let them briefly macerate in their own sticky, syrupy juices and then peel back their ashen, loosely fitting coats.
I want to emphasize that although I store the peppers in a mason jar, this is not a proper canning method. The peppers are marinated, not preserved, and should keep a week or two in the refrigerator.
Serve the glassy peppers on a rustic sandwich or blended with pine nuts, walnuts and a touch of cream for a sweet and earthy pasta sauce. Eat them alone with a few anchovies and capers dusted with aromatic, lemony basil or use them to elevate a custardy poached egg.
This time I served them to my family curled snugly over crackly, peppery garlic toasts, layered with fluffy pillows of creamy, salty, tart goat cheese and a light drizzle of the marinade liquid. Fragrant oil infiltrates the bread, each bite a mélange of sweet and salt, crunchy and chewy, creamy and earthy.
Spicy, Garlicky Marinated Red Peppers
5 Red Bell Peppers
3-4 Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced
4 1/2-inch thick lemon slices, seeds removed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher salt to taste
Equipment: 1-pint canning jar
1. Position rack in top of third of oven and preheat broiler on high.
2. Clean and dry peppers and lay them on their sides on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast in oven until first side is blackened, about 10 minutes. Rotate peppers with tongs until all sides are evenly charred, about 25-35 minutes total, depending on size of peppers.
3. Transfer hot peppers to a large bowl or casserole dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside at room temperature, about 20 minutes, until peppers are wrinkly and cool enough to handle.
4. Remove stems, seeds and skin from peppers and cut into 1-inch strips. Set aside peppers and their juices in a clean bowl.
5. Add peppers and pepper juice to canning jar, along with sliced garlic, pepper flakes slices and salt. Mix gently with a spoon until well combined, being careful not to break up peppers. Add lemon slices to outside edges of jar, pushing them down with a spoon, and cover with olive oil.
6. Cover with lid and store in refrigerator about 12 hours. Use within 7-10 days.
Yield: Makes 1/2 quart.