A quick note today on the method for roasting peppers. And a very common—and very savory—antipasto: peperoni con alici, or Roasted Peppers with Anchovies.
How to roast a pepper
The lusty, smoky flavor of home-roasted peppers more than justifies the minimal effort required to make them. You begin by charring whole peppers by applying intense dry heat. You can do this various ways:
- Over a grill aka barbecue
- Under a broiler using the highest rack in your oven
- In an oven, roasting at highest heat using the convection function
- Airfrying (the new fangled method)
- In the traditional fashion: Spearing a pepper with a skewer or long fork and holding it closely over a flame (these days usually a gas burner).
Whichever method you use, make sure to turn the peppers from time to time until they are well charred on all sides.
Then place the peppers in a plastic bag or wrap them in parchment paper, then cover in a kitchen towel. Sometimes I just place them in a bowl and cover it with another bowl. Either way, allow the peppers to rest for at least 10 minutes, but better about 15-20 minutes. Not all recipes call for this ‘rest’, but it will help soften the flesh and loosen the skins—and allow the peppers to cool enough to handle comfortably.
After this time, run the peppers under cold water as you slip off their skins and remove their seeds with your hands. They will tend to break apart along the ‘seams’ that run down the vegetable, which is fine. (But watch out as they will be a bit slippery and may slip down the drain…)
Dry the peppers off with paper towels and cut them into strips (thick or thin, according to the recipe and your personal taste.)
You are now ready to use the roasted peppers in any recipe that calls for them.
NB: I find that running the peppers under water makes peeling so much easier. But many people will tell you that this robs the peppers of some of their flavor. I’m not one of those people.
Peperoni con alici
Here’s my favorite way to enjoy a roasted pepper:
Place your pepper strips in a bowl or container, intermingling anchovy fillets among the strips. (The ratio of anchovy to pepper is a matter of taste, but remember that anchovies have a very strong taste.) Then nestle one or two slightly crushed garlic cloves among the strips. Season lightly, remembering that the anchovies are salty, and pour over fruity olive oil to cover.
Allow the peppers and anchovies to sit for at least a couple of hours, but overnight is even better. Serve as an antipasto with crusty bread and good wine.
The best peppers for roasting are bell peppers, which are fleshy and have skins that will slip off easily after roasting. Frying peppers, while possible to use, have thinner flesh and skins that are hard to peel, even after roasting. Any color pepper—red, yellow or green, or a combination—will do fine. Red peppers, as you may know, are quite sweet, while the green ones tend to be more piquant.
Salted anchovies—acciughe sotto sale—make for a finer dish, but canned or bottled anchovy fillets in oil will do perfectly well. If you use salted anchovies, you will need to rinse them well under running cold water, removing the head and center bone (called the lisca in Italian, by the way.) You can vary the recipe by adding one or more flavorings to the basic recipe: a few capers, for example, or some red pepper flakes, ground black pepper, parsley, oregano, a few drops of vinegar or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Peppers under oil will keep for quite a while—at least a week—but remove the garlic cloves after 24 hours, as the garlic flavor will continue to intensify and become unpleasantly strong after a while.