A "Sauce" of Roasted Peppers, Fried Eggs and Bread Crumbs

Serves 4

"The sauce here happens as the ingredients are mixed. The toasted bread crumb topping is often used in Italy to dress up simple pasta dishes. These are also delicious sprinkled on simply cooked vegetables and fish."

-- From the Pasta chapter

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup coarse dry bread crumbs (I like Japanese-style panko)

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, plus extra for serving

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

2 large red bell peppers

2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound dried pasta (shape of your choice, such as bow-tie or radiatore)

4 large eggs

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. As soon as the foam begins to disappear, stir in the bread crumbs. Lower the heat slightly and cook, stirring constantly, until the bread crumbs begin to brown. Add the garlic and saute for a minute more or until the crumbs are golden brown. Remove from the heat, cool and stir in the Parmesan and parsley. Set aside. (The crumbs can be made a day or two ahead; store tightly covered in the refrigerator. Wait to add the parsley until serving time.)

Char or roast the peppers*, then peel, seed and chop into 1/4-inch dice. Be sure to catch all the juices and add to the chopped peppers in a bowl. Stir in the capers, 3 tablespoons of the oil, and salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Cook the pasta in at least 6 quarts of lightly salted boiling water until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a saute pan and gently fry the eggs until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Season well with salt and pepper.

Set aside 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta. Divide the hot pasta among 4 warm pasta bowls and top with the red pepper mixture. Place a hot egg on top of each serving and then sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture. Serve immediately, instructing eaters to toss the mixture with 2 forks, gently breaking up the egg whites and letting the yolks act as a sauce. Add a little of the reserved hot pasta water if the mixture needs thinning. Enjoy immediately, passing and adding a little more cheese and pepper, if desired.

*NOTE: To roast bell peppers, use a long-handled fork and char them over an open flame until they are blackened all over. The burner on a gas range works fine. Or you can place the peppers under a preheated broiler about two inches from the heat and turn occasionally until they are well blackened. An even simpler way is to cut the peppers down one side, remove the seeds and stem, and flatten them on a baking sheet, skin side up. Place them under the broiler until charred -- you don't even have to turn them. Place the blackened peppers in a bowl, cover them with plastic wrap, and let them steam for a few minutes. With your fingers or the point of a knife, remove the blackened skin.

If you haven't already done so, cut off the tops and discard the stem and seeds. Roasted and peeled peppers freeze well (flatten, place a layer of wax paper in between each, and wrap well in foil) and are also delicious covered in olive oil and stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Don't forget to use the flavorful oil when the peppers are gone.

[Tester's notes: Panko crumbs are lighter and fluffier and well worth using here. For a shortcut, you could use jarred roasted peppers.]

Per serving: 858 calories, 28 gm protein, 95 gm carbohydrates, 40 gm fat, 247 mg cholesterol, 13 gm saturated fat, 618 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber

Slow-Roasted Salmon

Serves 6

"This is the simplest recipe imaginable. What makes it work is that most of the natural fat in the salmon stays put and isn't cooked away by high heat. You end up with a beautifully buttery, moist piece of fish. The skin helps promote this by sealing in the juices and also contributes flavor of its own. You don't have to eat the skin if you don't want to, but do leave it on while the fish cooks. (Obviously, you can cook a single fillet or as many as you can fit in your oven; just use more or fewer herbs and lemon zest.)"

-- From the Salmon chapter

Extra-virgin olive oil

6 thick salmon fillets or steaks with skin on, about 5 ounces each

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon, parsley or chives

2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Gently rub a little oil into the flesh side of the salmon and season it lightly with salt and pepper. (Rubbing the fish will also give you the chance to feel for little bones, which you can pick out with your fingers or tweezers.) Place the salmon skin side down on a nonstick or parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Combine the herbs and zest and sprinkle over the top, gently pressing into the flesh. Roast in the oven for 22 to 25 minutes or until just cooked through but still slightly translucent in the very center (check with the tip of a knife). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Per serving: 222 calories, 28 gm protein, trace carbohydrates, 11 gm fat, 78 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 109 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber