Fresh Roasted Pepper and Olive Bruschetta

February 6, 2011

There are some flavor combinations I never tire of regardless of what time of the year it is.  The classic flavors of basil and tomato with a sprinkle of minced red onion, squirt of lemon, and drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil will always entice me. Equally delicious are chopped fresh tomatos, green onions, cilantro, and jalapenos with lime juice — a combination so perfect, I can easily skip the tortilla chips and head right for a spoon to enjoy the salty-tart-spicy flavor that would never be the same without cilantro.  I think I love cilantro even more than basil.

But another combination has come close to pushing both of the others aside as being tops in my mind — or my mouth:  roasted peppers, capers, and briny olives. Ironically, the flavors in this combination would work quite well with many of the others I’ve mentioned, but I enjoy them in a mix like this one — assertively delicious with the unexpected addition of anchovies.

Anchovies?  Those little fish in the can with the curly lid that when I’m ordering a pizza to go topped with “the works” I always politely decline?  The little salty things whose absence would leave a Caesar’s salad an unappetizing plate of flavorless lettuce, and pasta puttanesca without anything to be sassy about beyond a sprinkle of dried red pepper flakes.

Do any of us ever really say we like anchovies?  Probably not, but the key to learning to stop avoiding them is to see them as an ingredient to be mixed with others instead of sitting on top of a pizza.  If the anchovies were mixed into the tomato sauce instead, it would intensify the flavor leaving us to wonder what made it so good.

Think about it.  How many other ingredients which enhance one another when mixed together are basically unpleasant when eaten alone?  Capers.  I’ve tasted them just to see, and they’re quite bitter.  Or in most recipes which call for capers, the directions will advise rinsing them first.  For years, I did just that, and to make sure I understood why, I tasted the brine.  Not pleasant.  But when it’s mixed into many other ingredients, it’s quite fabulous.  Soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar — all are less than pleasant when tasted alone.

Freshly roasted peppers, on the other hand, are perfect alone sprinkled lightly with salt, but they’re truly delicious in this mix. It’s perfect tossed with pasta for a salad when you don’t feel like cooking, or spooned over grilled meat or fish.  It’s helps make an omelet interesting and is especially excellent spread over a piece of crusty bread slathered with goat cheese.

It’s the best party food even if you’re the only one at the party, because then you don’t have to share.

Be brave.  Don’t forget the anchovies.



Fresh Roasted Pepper and Olive Bruschetta

4 bell peppers, any color, roasted

1 c. good olives, such as kalamatas, cerignola, or picholine

4 anchovies, oil-packed

2 T capers

2 big pinches chopped fresh rosemary

2 cloves garlic, minced

splash red wine vinegar

drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

goat cheese

crusty bread

Roast the peppers whole on the stove top over an open flame or cut in half and placed on a baking sheet under the broiler until skin is well blackened.  Wrap in a clean, soft cloth about 15 minutes, then remove the peelings, the stem, and the seeds.  Do not rinse the peppers.

Slice the peppers into thin strips and add them to a bowl with all ingredients except the goat cheese and bread.

Slice the bread into rounds, or into sandwich sized lengths, drizzle very lightly with olive oil and rub with a clove of garlic.  Broil or grill until golden.

To serve, spread some goat cheese on the toast, and spoon over some of the roasted pepper salad.

Swoon.

Mix everything but bread and cheese in a bowl

Toast bread, spread cheese, spoon roasted pepper mix over

Notes:

  • This recipe was adapted from one of Mario Batali’s published in Food & Wine.  Credit to him for getting me to try the anchovies like this.  So good.
  • I know olives can be difficult to find at times.  When I look at the kind of olives stocked in my grocery store, it’s a bit ridiculous.  There are essentially two choices:  canned black and “Spanish.”  Lots and lots of labels, can sizes, sliced or unsliced…really?  I can find kalamatas as well, but they never have the shelf space that the typical American olives do.  Food times have changed — why hasn’t the shelf space in markets?  Do people still eat that many plain black olives?  Thankfully, there is an olive bar, so I’m able to try a different variety from time to time.  When I really want to sample different varieties, Whole Foods is the best source here.
  • “Give Anchovies Another Chance” is a great article about anchovies.  Take a look.
  • On the bruschetta:  We think it’s easier to mince some fresh garlic and add it to a couple of glugs of extra virgin olive oil and let it sit a bit before brushing it on the bread.  Rubbing that piece of garlic over the surface of the bread is maddening, but maybe I’m just not gifted in that particular skill.
  • More on the bruschetta:  Unless you enjoy eating soggy food, plate the toast, goat cheese, and a bowl of the roasted pepper and olive mix so that guests can make their own bruschetta.
  • Make this ahead — the flavors intensify and are even better after they’ve had some time to mix.  Cover and leave at room temperature instead of putting it in the fridge.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim February 6, 2011

Amen!! Love the anchovies. We add it to… A LOT of different things. Marinara, vinaigrettes, the list goes on.

We like capers, too.

Red bell peppers were on sale at the market this week for $0.49/each, so I picked up 10. It was my intention to make a puree with them… but I might save a few for these.

Happy weekend to you!

[K]

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kellypea February 6, 2011

Sounds like you scored on those peppers! LOVE roasted peppers pureed for soup. Good luck deciding!

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Cooking with Michele February 6, 2011

Don’t fear the anchovies! I love this recipe for anchovy buttered bread to accompany a nice paella:

http://cookingwithmichele.com/2009/11/grilled-bread-with-anchovy-butter/

My guests gushed about how great it tasted – only THEN did I tell them it was anchovy they were in love with!

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kellypea February 6, 2011

Hilarious! What they don’t know can’t hurt them — at least with anchovies :)

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A little bit of everything February 6, 2011

i guess i have to trust you and Mario and try again to cook with anchovies.
thanks for sharing.

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Kelly February 7, 2011

Exactly ;). He axnd I are on a first name basis, you know. Maybe? Okay, not. But I do love this recipe. Made it yesterday again and really chopped up the peppers. Stil flavorful and pretty, but easier to spoon on that toast.

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Joanne February 6, 2011

I used to leave out the anchovies based on sheer principle alone. And because I thought I hated them. Oh how wrong I was. They really add a nice kick to so many dishes…many of which would be lackluster without them.

I love the flavor of fresh roasted red peppers…so sweet and smoky. what a great bruschetta!

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Kelly February 7, 2011

I think Caesar salad is what got me to change my mind with anchovies — and tons of garlic. So tasty!

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Megan @ FeastingonArt February 7, 2011

Oh my, this looks so beautiful and delicious. I must try this soon!

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Missy February 7, 2011

PERFECTION! :)

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Susan February 7, 2011

Great advice on the anchovies although I usually opt for a little anchovy paste rather than the whole fishies. Maybe one day I’ll get brave :) This looks delicious!

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Kelly February 9, 2011

I use anchovy paste once in a while, but it doesn’t seem to go as far in that squeeze tube. I always seem to have a few frozen that need to be used for something, so it’s great!

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The Food Hound February 7, 2011

Swoon is right!! Super classy, easy, and I LOVE every ingredient!! Rustic-looking, too!

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Steph F February 8, 2011

Every one of those ingredients is on my favorite foods list. And maybe I’m a total freak, but I can eat capers by the forkful ;)

Now if only I could find burrata in San Diego, this could be modified into the vegetable/cheese dish of my DREAMS.

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Kelly February 9, 2011

No kidding on the dream food! If I’m not mistaken, I swear I saw some burrata at Harvest Ranch in the Costa Verde shopping center in UTC. They have quite the selection of cheeses, and I don’t go in there often, but when I do, I scan the cheese case. I’ve seen cheese there I’ve never seen anywhere!

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UrMomCooks February 8, 2011

Well I might use anchovies if they ever discontinue anchovy paste…that way I never have to interact with them! Silly I know. But if anyone can change my mind it would be your beautiful pictures and the urging of Mario! Seriously has the man ever made a bad meal???

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Kelly February 9, 2011

I love his recipes mostly because they’re usually not fussy when I’m not in the mood for messing around with too many directions. Rare, but it comes in handy.

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El February 9, 2011

This looks like an amazing treat. You’re absolutely right. The flavor combination is incredible.

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Barbara @ Modern Comfort Food February 11, 2011

I’m timid about many things but am boldness personified when it comes to anchovies. I truly love the idea of this simple, delicious sounding recipe which has gone straight into my mental filing cabinet to make in the very near future with peppers from my garden. I often roast red bell pepper halves with a drizzle of olive oil, a garlic slice, and an anchovy in the cavity. But your recipe is light years ahead of that in terms of all-round wonderfulness. Can’t wait to try it!

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wes February 13, 2011

This sounds perfect for us; pepper, olives, cheese and anchovies? Yum! Can’t wait to try it. I think that I have everything but the bread.

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Jackie (Phamfatale.com) February 16, 2011

I love the taste of roasted bell peppers. I usually do the stove method when I only have 1 or bell peppers but prefer the oven method when I plan to roast a lot. Here goes: preheat your oven to 450°F. Spread the peppers evenly on a cookie sheet, in a single layer. Roast the peppers for about 4-5 minutes until the skins blacken. Wrap each pepper in a cloth. Voila!

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