In this column, Scout contributor and food enthusiast Maciel Pereda shares her personal recipes aimed at solving everyday cooking conundrums. Possibilities are endless, ingredients are local, and cravings are always respected. Today Maciel shares her recipe for end-of-summer/early-autumn peppers that is guaranteed to make the seasonal transition infinitely more delicious…
This dish has no right to look so screamingly perfect, and yet, there’s no UGLY way to serve this dish. It’s not your fault that – try as you might – whipped dairy and roasted, oil-slicked veg piled atop thick slabs of bread just refuses to look anything other than gloriously seductive.
The blame actually lies with the fact that something unnervingly wonderful happens when you gently roast sweet, end-of-summer/early-autumn peppers (and maybe some cherry tomatoes) in a pool of olive oil and garlic. ‘Melt’ is the only word I’m capable of using to describe what happens to these peppers. Gone are tough skins and any hints of astringent bitterness; left in their places are silky, melty, almost candy-like peppers. But wait – it doesn’t stop there! You’re going to decide what kind of dairy you need (maybe an ethereally light gorgonzola spread?) and smear that all over some Very Good Bread before topping it with a glistening spoonful of those melted, jammy peppers.
With that in mind, please know that this dish absolutely exists on a continuum of “I have few shits to give” and “I actually care many shits about this right now”. You can do the bare minimum version, which is sliced fresh bread with the melted peppers and a spreadable soft cheese, such as ricotta. OR you can do the dress-to-impress version, which involves grilling your bread before topping it with a devastatingly delicious whipped gorgonzola (or feta) and said melted peppers (pictured above and below). There is also every option in-between. Feel quite free to pick and choose the elements of this recipe that fit with your life. Unfortunately, there is no getting around the long (passive) cooking time of 2-3 hours, but rest assured that the actual active cooking time is quite limited.
Melted Peppers on Bread
Serves 4-6 as a very generous side dish, or many more as an appetizer
~2 lbs medium and small sweet peppers (ideally a mix of colours, sizes, and types)
~1 lb cherry tomatoes (*optional; if omitting, increase peppers to 3 lbs total)
10 garlic cloves, peeled
½ – ¾ cup good quality olive oil
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese or feta
½ cup cream cheese, room temperature
¾ cup heavy cream
Chopped chives, to serve (very optional)
1 loaf crusty bread (very fresh if not grilling), thickly sliced
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Prep the peppers – remove stems, membranes, and seeds, and chop them into halves or quarters, depending on their size. Transfer peppers to a 9×13″ baking dish and scatter in the garlic cloves and tomatoes, if using. Pour over enough oil to drench the vegetables, but not enough to submerge them. Sprinkle on your sugar, as well as plenty of salt and pepper, and toss all together.
Roast for 2–3 hours, checking every half hour or so, and flipping your peppers to ensure that every side gets a turn to sit in the sizzling hot oil. The peppers are ready when they look ‘melty’. They should not be at all blackened or burned, though. It’s okay if the peppers are swimming in liquid by the time they’re done as this is just a delicious combo of the garlicky oil and the juices that have seeped out of the veg.
While the peppers roast, blend the two cheeses with the heavy cream in a food processor or blender. Season to taste and refrigerate until ready to use.
To serve, place the peppers (hot, warm, or room temperature) in a shallow bowl and serve alongside the whipped cheese (now sprinkled with chives, perhaps?) and sliced bread. The peppers will keep best in a lidded jar, with enough oil poured over top to cover them completely. I store them on my counter for up to a few days like this, but they will last much longer in the fridge (just remember to bring them to room temp before serving).
Plot out your own Farmer’s Market melty peppers and cheese spread shopping spree here.