Friday, August 24, 2012

Bruschetta (or Crostini) with Marinated Roasted Sweet Peppers

It seems fitting to follow up my "basics" post on how to roast and peel peppers by sharing another way to use them. The recipe—if you can call it that—for marinated roasted sweet peppers could hardly be simpler. The resulting peppers are quite versatile. They can be used as a sauce for pasta, a condiment for scrambled or poached eggs (or Tortilla Española), or a sauce for grilled or roasted fish. One of my favorite way to use them is as a topping for a ricotta or goat cheese smeared bruschetta or crostini.

The specific recipe I'm posting is from Janet Fletcher's Fresh from the Farmers' Market. Basically, strips of roasted peppers are added to a pan of warm garlic-infused olive oil and then left to marinate for an hour or so. During this resting period the peppers give up some of their liquid—enhancing the already flavorful olive oil. At the same time the peppers absorb the flavor of the garlicky oil. A bit of fresh basil is added just before serving. The flavors are pure, uncomplicated and delicious.

But this recipe is really only a starting place. In posting it, my hope is to give you lots of ideas for ways to dress or marinate your roasted peppers. In her book The Vineyard Kitchen, Maria Helm Sinskey makes a similar preparation. In addition to garlic, a few rinsed capers are sizzled briefly in the olive oil. The garlic is sliced, rather than minced, and the peppers are cut into squares instead of strips. After their brief rest, the peppers are finished with minced parsley and a squeeze of lemon.

Once you begin to think of the kinds of flavors that go well with peppers you will be able to come up with all kinds of wonderful variations. Besides garlic and capers, other things that will work well in the initial infusion of the olive oil include minced rosemary or oregano, hot pepper flakes, minced anchovies or crushed fennel or coriander seeds. A few olives—minced, sliced or or green—would be nice added along with the peppers. If you like the idea of a bit of acidity added at the end, balsamic vinegar would be a delicious variation on Sinskey's squeeze of lemon juice. As always, when making additions and variations, aim for restraint and balance. Adding too much or too many different things will mar the simple and straightforward flavor of these peppers.

Bruschetta with Sweet Peppers & Ricotta

2 large bell peppers (one red and one yellow, if possible), roasted, peeled and seeded—juices reserved
Extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
4 oz. whole milk ricotta, seasoned with salt and pepper
6 slices country-style bread, cut 1/2-inch thick
6 to 8 basil leaves, chiffonade

Cut the peppers into lengthwise strips about 1/2-inch wide. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and add the garlic; sauté until fragrant. Add the peppers, along with their reserved juices, and toss to coat with the oil. Cook just until hot through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the pan. The flavor is best if made at least an hour ahead of serving.

To serve, gently warm the peppers (if desired—they can also be left at room temperature) and stir in the basil. Toast the bread on both sides on a grill, under the broiler or in a toaster. Drizzle each slice on one side with olive oil. Spread the warm toast with the seasoned ricotta and top with a few strips of peppers along with some of their juices.

This same preparation may also be served on smaller crostini. To make crostini, slice a day old baguette crosswise into 1/4- to 1/3-inch thick slices. Distribute the slices on a cookie sheet in a single layer and brush liberally (on both sides) with olive oil. Place under the broiler and broil until the toasts are golden; turn the slices over and broil the second side until golden. Alternatively, toast in a hot oven until golden around the edges.

(Adapted from Fresh from the Farmers’ Market by Janet Fletcher)

Note: If using the peppers as a sauce (for fish, eggs, pasta, etc.) you may need to add more olive oil to the finished peppers.

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