Salvaging the Most Boring Pepper on Earth

People have found all sorts of creative uses for green bell pepper across an array of pan-cultural preparations. You’ll find large chunks of it dominating entrees in cheap Chinese restaurants; lengthy slivers in pasta primavera at Olive Garden and Buca di Beppo; long-simmered squares floating in albondigas soup at your favorite Mexican dive. Among the world’s varied peppers, ranging from the tiny fiery pequins of Mexico to big sweet Hungarian peppers to vibrantly hot thai chilies, green peppers are not my favorite.

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But even the most pedestrian vegetables can have their moment to shine. And so I humbly present the green bell pepper, re-introduced and all dressed up for its ascension to glory. this!

If there’s one culture you should be able to count on to achieve a Cinderella turn on banal produce like zucchini and cabbage, it’s the Italians. So it’s not surprising that they would devise what is the ultimate showcase for the green pepper. Far from an inexpensive filler and support character, here it’s the star. In this amazingly simple salad, the peppers are roasted until charred to concentrate their flavor, then paired with the perfect accompaniments — capers, anchovies, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

I know people who have one kind of vinegar in their cupboard: balsamic. They put it on everything — pouring it curiously as a marinade over salmon or steaks bound for the grill, shaking it over Asian salads and Italian salads alike. Balsamic is not my favorite vinegar — it’s very good in certain dishes, but is not as versatile as rice wine vinegar. But this salad is one dish where balsamic truly shines. In addition to the balsamic in the dressing, I’ve also used some of my imported Italian balsamic glaze in the above preparation —a zig-zag drizzle just to make it look fancy.

*   *   *

Roasted green pepper salad with anchovy and capers
serves 2

2 large green peppers
4 anchovy fillets
1 tbsp. capers
balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Roast the peppers at a high temperature in a toaster oven or on a grill until skin is blistered and browned, usually anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes depending on heat source. Remove to a large bowl and cover with a dishtowel. Let sit for 5 minutes. When peppers have cooled some, peel off as much of the skin as you can. Peel away the flesh in long strips, brush off any seeds, and lay on a large plate. Once all flesh is removed from the peppers, drizzle with vinegar and olive oil, break up anchovies into three or four pieces each and toss with peppers and capers. Set aside in fridge for at least one hour up to one day. (Flavors develop well as the salad sits.)

Remove and let warm to room temperature before serving. To plate: lay out strips between two plates, ensuring that capers and anchovies get evenly distributed, drizzle with reserved vinaigrette and a little more olive oil. If you have a balsamic glaze, create a pattern on top for effect. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Thelma Lee
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 00:55:42

    I do the same thing with red peppers and honestly…. SO MUCH better. I detect a bitter underflavor in green peppers. I stuff chard instead of green peppers also. Anything to avoid them. Indeed your recipe is their only possible salvation. And I am going to add capers to my next batch of reds.

    Easier way to roast peppers…using the 20-20-20 rule.

    Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes on cookie sheet, turn and roast 20 minutes more. Remove and sweat for 20 minutes in wet towel. Peel, seed and you are ready.


  2. Thelma Lee
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 00:59:40

    p.s. I forgot to say I add one crushed garlic clove for every three peppers in the final mixture. And I don’t use balsamic…. I agree with you about its limited use. I do find it to be effective in livening up roasted orange beets, however, and I like the good stuff plain on bread, of course.

    Okay now I am starving. It’s a scientific fact that talking and writing and reading about food makes you EAT MORE. Thanks. 🙂


  3. Lisa Gaskin
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 01:01:48

    I really don’t like green bell peppers (I’m trying NOT to say hate). They’re just burpy for some and yucky for others. So rude for restaurants to throw them in as fillers…. Anyway, I love rice vinegar and probably won’t try this because NOBODY in my house could appreciate a bell pepper in any form…BUT…I have always, wonderful imported and aged balsamic, so if I am inclined to prepare something just for myself :0 But then maybe I’ll hate it 😉


  4. mom
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 04:09:18

    Oh my Goodness you sure have some neurotic female readers eh Sean?


  5. Benjamin Thompson
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 13:24:24

    But really, what vegetable wouldn’t taste good roasted, served with anchovies and capers, and drizzled with a classic Italian dressing?

    Better watch out for any mobs of Puerto Ricans who might come after you for this post. Deprived of their green bell pepper-based Sofrito they may become an angry people. 😉


  6. paul
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 14:24:23

    I have always loved the big green pepper along with just about every other pepper that I’ve ever encountered. This does seem a good way to do them and for some reason it feels like it would be great on pizza . . .


  7. g
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 03:19:36

    My parents always bought green bell peppers – I kid you not – because they were cheaper than red ones. youthful rebellion as well as taste has made me turn from the green bell pepper to the red, yellow, and orange.

    But the other day I had a wonderful Japanese eggplant and green bell pepper stir fry in miso, in a cheap little lunch joint in Little Tokyo, and it was so good I’m thinking of reconsidering my stance. How timely is your post!


    • scolgin
      Jun 15, 2011 @ 03:34:07

      I’m feeling like there may be a green pepper renaissance under way.


      • paul
        Jun 15, 2011 @ 15:22:39

        Renaissance or not, I will continue to support the Green pepper industry and am making that pizza dough with that great recipe you supplied me, O those many years ago . . . I may even put some onions and sausage on that Green pepper pizza . . . 8^)

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