Tomatoes get all the glory at this time of year. I’m not saying they don’t deserve it; they do. But I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the bell pepper, another glorious vegetable of late summer.
Right now, bell peppers are at their best: heavy, juicy and loaded with sweet, sharp flavor.
We are bell pepper people in my family. We love them raw, roasted, fried in olive oil (with lots of garlic), pureed in soups, tossed with pasta and grilled. Especially grilled.
Grilling peppers adds even more depth to their flavor, plus an alluring smokiness. There’s a little work involved; charring the peppers over the flame and then ridding them of the blackened skin and the seeds. But once the work is done, there are plenty of ways in which you can enjoy grilled peppers.
* Cut them into thin ribbons, arrange them on a plate and tuck in some slivered garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt.
* Cut into wide pieces, stuff with a little goat cheese, roll and secure with a toothpick.
* Toss with freshly cooked (still hot) pasta, olive oil, garlic and freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese.
* Chop finely and use as a topping for crostini (toasted bread slices).
That last one is what I did recently when we were invited to a cookout at my neighbor’s house. I started with the peppers but wanted to mix them with something. When I found a can of good tuna in olive oil in my pantry I knew I had my match.
Tuna and peppers go together nicely. Add capers, a little balsamic vinegar and anchovies; you’ll have a savory topping that will please grownups and kids alike.
It’s true; my daughter confessed to putting away five crostini.
See the recipe after the jump.
Domenica Marchetti is the author of “The Glorious Pasta of Italy” (Chronicle, June 2011) as well as “The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy” (Chronicle, 2006) and “Big Night In: More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends Italian-Style” (Chronicle 2008). She blogs at DomenicaCooks.com.
Sweet Pepper and Tuna Crostini
Makes about 20 crostini (6 to 8 servings)
To drink: a light red such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, or a crisp white such as Vermentino di Sardegna.
For the crostini
One (10-ounce) thin baguette or ficelle, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the topping
1 pound (about 4 medium) sweet red bell peppers, or a mix of red and yellow peppers
1 medium clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained and finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley, plus a few whole leaves for garnish
5 1/2 ounces (1 can) imported, oil-packed Italian or Spanish tuna, drained
2 good-quality oil-packed anchovy fillets, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
For the crostini: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Have a large rimmed baking sheet at hand.
Use the oil to brush one side of the bread slices. Arrange them on the baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the slices are golden brown around the edges and pale golden in the center. Cool to room temperature.
For the topping: Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to high (600 to 650 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly under the cooking area. For a very hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 1 or 2 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.
Arrange the peppers on the grill grate; cook uncovered, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes or less, until the skins are completely charred.
Use tongs to transfer the peppers to a heatproof bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and steam for 5 minutes. Uncover; use your fingers and a paring knife to stem and seed the peppers. Cut or pull peppers in half and lay flat, skin side up, on a cutting board. Use the paring knife and your fingers to scrape off the charred skins from the peppers, discarding the skins. Cut the peppers into 1/4-inch dice and transfer to a clean bowl.
Add the garlic, salt and balsamic vinegar, tossing to incorporate; let stand for 30 minutes.
Fold in the capers, parsley and tuna. Season with a generous quantity of black pepper and stir gently until well combined.
Top each toasted bread slice with about 1 heaping tablespoon of the tuna-pepper mixture, spreading it out evenly. Arrange the crostini on a serving platter and scatter a few whole leaves of parsley over the top.