I have spent the last month cooking hamburgers on my grill, striving towards the perfectly cooked, medium burger. Grilling is a delicate dance between timing and heat. It takes just the right balance to achieve a moderate char on the outside and a juicy, pink inside. No one wants a blue burger, or a hockey puck, and no one wants a burger with a gray exterior, no matter how perfectly pink it may be in the middle. Apparently, I have a few more burgers to screw up before I manage to avoid all of these undesirable traits.
Roasted red peppers seemed like an appropriate antidote to alleviate my grilling frustrations. Roasting peppers is fairly foolproof, although it is definitely a labor of love. It takes time and patience, but yields something delectable. Store-bought roasted red peppers are perfectly fine, especially when used as an augmentative ingredient in pasta or a green salad. However, when the peppers are headlining the event, it makes a notable difference to roast them yourself. They are smoky, meaty, and sweet, with a soft, buttery texture. If you have the time, it is actually fun, and largely uninvolved. You simply put whole peppers on the grill until they are charred. Then they steam together for a bit, and last they must be lovingly peeled. Then they are ready for you to chow down. If you are going to do it, do it with at least 4 peppers so that it is worth your while.
The salad I made was comprised of the smoky peppers, cut into strips, as well as every herb I have growing on my patio, with capers, kalamata olives, and a kiss of garlic. I am particularly proud of my thriving herb pot because I attempted this last year, and it was a disaster. My herbs were infested with earwigs, and then I refused to water them, and eventually I had a pot of dead herbs camped out on my patio. My full, green plants are a sight for sore eyes.
Essentially, this salad is all things good in the world mixed in a bowl. And if you were concerned that a few were missing, you could follow my example and serve a caprese salad and some bread along side. I love a dinner like this on a hot summer night: cold, and vegetable-laden, yet still rich and satisfying. With the leftovers, I chopped the salad roughly, and tossed it with hot rigatoni, extra basil, and fresh mozzarella. Delicious.
Roasted Red Pepper Salad (based on Giada de Laurentiis’s recipe)
2 red bell peppers
1 orange bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
12 basil leaves, torn
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 garlic clove, grated on a microplane
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat a grill to medium high for about 10 minutes
- Place the peppers on the grill, and cook for 20-25 minutes. Rotate every 5 minutes so that the skin of the pepper becomes evenly charred, and the whole pepper softens.
- When charred, remove peppers from the grill and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
- Next place peppers on a plate or cutting board to cool for an additional 10 minutes, or however long it takes for you to be able to handle the peppers.
- Tear peppers open, remove stem and seeds and peel off all the skin. It should be easy to remove. If it is difficult to remove seeds, rinse the peppers gently. Only do this when necessary and use water sparingly as it will rinse off the smoky flavor of the grill.
- Cut the peppers into strips, and add all of the remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste. Eat the salad as is, or with chicken, a caprese salad, bread, or however you’d like. It’s also great as a condiment on a sandwich.