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Ember-Roasted Peppers in Olive Oil

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Extraordinary dish prepared directly over hot embers to make a memorable starter in the purest tradition of Mediterranean simplicity.

As the outdoor cooking season draws to an end, here is a very simple recipe you can cook on hot embers. I've been making it for years both in the oven and on embers and it's a guaranteed success.

Ember-Roasted Peppers in Olive Oil
6 bell peppers, red or yellow
6 garlic cloves
1 tsp freshly crushed white pepper
1 glass quality olive oil

Do not use green peppers or hot peppers.

Prepare a hardwood or charcoal fire. Please do not use low-quality briquettes because they contains toxic substances. Do not use pine or any softwood as they impart a bitter taste.

You do not need to wash your peppers.

Wait until the wood has turned to embers and the flames are starting to die out. You can do this on a pretty hot fire, there is no need to wait for a bed of ashes. But don't put the peppers in while you can still see the wood's original color because the initial stage of combustion gives out rather unappealing fumes that will turn your food bitter with creosotes.

Lay the peppers in the hot embers one by one. A very memorable cooking experience! Wait until the skin on the bottom has blistered and turned black, then turn them around. The peppers won't burn, there is too much liquid in them and the blisters fill with steam and insulate the flesh from the embers. People walk barefoot on embers and live to tell the tale. All you need is faith in the process.

Remove the peppers one by one when most of the pepper's skin has turned black. Let them rest for 10-15 minutes in a sealed freezer bag or covered bowl.

The 15 minutes nap has loosened the blistered skin and it now easily comes off. You can do this next to a running tap to use the water to remove the seeds and bits of skins that will stick to your hands. Do NOT wash the peppers under water as this would remove much of the flavor. Remove the little patches of ashes here and there with a wet towel.

 

Cut each pepper in half and remove the seeds.

Cut the peppers into strips as wide as your finger.

 

Continue until all peppers, red and yellow, have been cut. Combine in a large bowl.

Remove the green core of each garlic clove and slice as thinly as you can, if possible using a truffle mandoline.

Add a glass of the best olive oil you own or enough to cover. Season with white pepper. The dish is served at room temperature but is best after at least 24 hours marination. Conserve in the refrigerator and take it out a few hours before the meal so that it is not too cold. Serve as a starter with grilled bread.

You can use less garlic if you don't like it, the peppers and olive already give a very rich flavor that can dispense with the garlic for a more feminine rendering of the dish.

This recipe requires a little time but it is infinitely better than the usual restaurant version, even in Italy, where the peppers are roasted in the oven and left with the skins on to save on labor cost.

The roasting directly over hot embers imparts more than a smoky flavor, as patches of the peppers' skin become almost caramelized with the scorching heat, and yet are never burnt. A very unique and memorable dish.

I was inspired to cook directly over hot embers by The Magic of Fire by William Rubel, an amazing book about cooking on open fires. This is one of my 20 favorite cookbooks and I have several hundreds cookbooks in 6 languages. You need to get this book - the recipes are all traditional and yet immensely original. Warmly recommended!



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9 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by parshu.narayanan
FX, at what stage do you add salt, if at all?
  • #2
  • Answered by fx
Parshu, I don't add any salt. The roasted flavors and garlic are enough, it is quite a sweet dish in fact.
  • #3
  • Comment by AlexNikolov
When I look at your pictures I can smell home :) This is a traditional dish in Bulgaria. A small difference is that we add some vinegar - the sour taste goes surprisingly well with the aroma of peppers and garlic.
  • #4
  • Comment by Laura
A traditional summer dish also in Romania; only you don't slice the peppers, you submerge them as they are after peeled in a sauce made of oil, vinegar AND salt. Some serve the dish next to an egg-plant salad. I'll try yours when the season comes:)
  • #5
  • Comment by Stahlregen
Roasted peppers are delicious - it brings out the whole fruity taste of the peppers, which is lost in many recipes where they are prepared with their skin.Another use for freshly roasted peppers is to make them into pasta sauce - just purree (or chop them very very fine), add fresh lime juice, some oil, and add spices and salt to taste (I like to add chili, honey, garlic and jeera). Mix with freshly prepared pasta and serve with a topping of the cheese of your choice (the recipe for this called for coarsely chopped feta cheese to make "greek" pasta).
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
Stahlregen, your roasted pepper pasta sauce recipe sounds very much like one I use to do years ago. I will try yours soon!
  • #7
  • Comment by Martin
Superb recipe, perfect photos and cool commentary ("trust the process...")
What a nice recipe ... I love to try it. Wonderful pictures showing how it's done and will look.
I am the host of a daily haiku meme and I have used one of your pictures (of course with references to your website) to go along with a haiku (a classical Japanese poetry form) on red and yellow peppers. If you want me to delete your picture in my post on my website? Please let me know and I will delete the picture.

Sincerely,

Chèvrefeuille
  • FX's answer→ Good luck Chevrefeuille, put a backlink to me under the picture please.




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