Happy Wednesday. There’s a lot to digest in today’s Food, so let’s start with the story of John Martin Taylor, dean of South Carolina low country cooking, who has just published the 20th-anniversary edition of his groundbreaking cookbook. Staff writer Tim Carman writes about his culinary legacy. Vered Guttman visits the monthly meeting of a group dedicated to preserving Ladino, a language of Sephardic Jews. And Cathy Barrow tells us how to make slivovitz; if you start now, you can have this delicious plum brandy ready for holiday gift giving.
You’ll join us at noon, right? That’s when we start the Free Range chat, our one-hour marathon of culinary questions and answers. Should be a big group on hand today: Vered will be with us, and we’re expecting John Martin Taylor to join in from his home in Bulgaria.
Don’t forget, you can punch in early and leave your question before the chat, which gives you a slightly better chance of getting it answered. Of course, if we don’t get to it, there’s always a chance I’ll tackle it next week in this space. Like I’m doing for this question from last week’s chat:
What’s the best way to preserve roasted red peppers to have them taste (nearly) as good as they do the day you grill them? Many canning recipes call for adding vinegar to the jars, but I’m worried that would alter the taste too much. How about canning in water? Oil is a no no, right? What about freezing? Do they look and taste good when defrosted? I have a ton of these things, and I want to enjoy them all winter long!
I think you hit it with that last idea. Freezing, for my money, is the best way to keep roasted peppers for the long term. They come out of the freezer with their taste and color pretty much intact. And you don’t have to go through the whole sterilizing-canning thing.
So, you roast/grill the peppers as usual. After that, you have a choice: Peel now, or peel later. Depends on whether you want to spend a lot of time peeling the peppers in one fell swoop now or do it in many small increments of time later. Your choice.
Remove the stem and seeds. Then wrap each pepper individually (or in whatever increments work for you) and freeze. I wrap them in plastic and then store several of them together in a resealable freezer bag. Pull them out when you need them, and think of summer.
Here’s a great recipe that will make good use of your stash. Since you’ll already have roasted peppers, you’ll start out ahead of the game.
The phrase "no-cook sauce" holds great appeal on a weeknight. In this recipe, using store-bought garlic croutons is a quick way to inject more flavor into the dish, but the croutons are easy to make with day-old bread you have on hand: Cut a large clove of garlic in half and rub it on both sides of 3 large, crustless slices of 3/4-inch-thick bread. Cut into cubes and drizzle all sides with olive oil. Toast in a large, dry nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, shaking the skillet often, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the bread is crisp and golden brown. Then process according to the crouton directions below.
If you're lucky, you'll have enough rigatoni left over for a cold pasta breakfast. Serve with a crisp green salad.
4 to 6 servings
- 1 to 2 large red bell peppers (may omit steps and use 1 cup store-bought roasted peppers)
- 1 pound rigatoni or similarly shaped tubular pasta
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 5 ounces store-bought garlic-flavored croutons
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, warmed, or to taste
Char the bell pepper over the flame of a gas stove top or under a broiler. Let the pepper become blistered and charred on one side, then rotate it until most of the skin is charred. Place the charred pepper in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it steam/soften for 15 minutes while you prepare the pasta and bread crumbs.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, stirring occasionally, until tender but firm to the bite. Drain and transfer to a large bowl; cover loosely to keep warm.
While the pasta is cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the croutons and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped to the consistency of bread crumbs (you should have about 2 3/4 cups total). Add the mixture to the warm pasta and toss to combine.
Remove and discard the charred skin, stem and seeds from the bell pepper and cut the pepper into thin strips. Add to the pasta, then add the oil to taste, tossing to coat evenly. Serve warm.
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis's "Everyday Pasta" (Clarkson Potter, 2007).