Click here for French version.
Grilled Peppers, à la Grand-mère
This recipe is simple but absolutely delicious. It was passed down to me by my grandmother. When people who’ve never eaten it taste it for the first time, they always ask me what I put in it to give it that incredibly special taste. The answer is: nothing.
Grilled bell peppers have a totally different taste from raw bell peppers; they are sweet and fruity. A chemist might say this is due to the transformation of the starch into sugar during cooking, with undoubtedly a few Maillard reactions thrown in (a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar).
Now that’s enough chemistry, because despite the sophisticated explanation for the incredible difference in flavor of raw vs. cooked bell peppers, the dish remains a simple but delicious down-home Mediterranean recipe. It can be eaten as tapas, or can be added to hundreds of other dishes: pinchos, the tiny portions of food they serve in bars in Spain; bell pepper and asparagus omelet or tortilla, as they call it in Spain; in salads and pasta; as an accompaniment to grilled meat. They are just as good eaten on their own, with a little olive oil and Sherry vinegar.
You can also use them to make more sophisticated dishes. Try adding anchovies and garlic grilled with the skin on. Stuff peppers, anchovies and grilled garlic to a Nice-style pan bagnat or pita bread, adding chopped tomatoes, lettuce, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and a few olives to make a healthy, flavorful sandwich. (Now my mouth is watering.)
Hints: Don’t forget to keep the oil you use to marinate salads such as these. They are full of flavor and can give a little life to other salads or dishes that are lacking flavor.
The list of salads you can make using grilled bell peppers is endless. For example, make a simple salad using hearts of palm. For something a little more sophisticated, use grilled peppers, hearts of palm, orange, olives, scallions, and strips of lettuce and avocado, just like in Andalusia (except for the hearts of palm).
4 red bell peppers
Olive oil to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
- Grill the peppers on a barbecue or outdoor grill, or under the broiler of the oven, until the skin is entirely black and “blistered”.
- Place grilled peppers in a plastic bag, such as a freezer bag.
- Close bag and wait for 30 minutes.
- While the peppers are cooling, the humidity will “steam off” the skin of the pepper. Otherwise, it is very difficult to remove. It should then be easy to strip the skin away from the body of the pepper.
- Remove skin from peppers. Remove stems, seeds and inside “ribs”.
- Cut lengthwise into long thin slices.
- Place in a salad bowl.
- Salt, pepper and generously drizzle olive oil over peppers.