Call it impulse shopping: I couldn’t resist the peppers at the Farmer’s Market. It was my Thursday morning run to the market, nice and early to beat the crowd and avoid the scorching summer sun. I was on an efficient mission to purchase ingredients needed only for dinner and not to spend too much money (my history is dismal in both areas.) I breezed through quickly, authoritatively and with discipline, a few simple sacks of greens for a dinner salad lightly gracing my arm. I was nearly finished, my wallet still in tact. And then I saw the pepper table. Sandwiched between the Asian vegetable ladies and the artisan goat cheese vendor, the pepper table stood out like a psychadelic altar to the produce gods. Stacks and stacks of peppers were on display in a confetti of colors. Gnarly sweet red gypsies, smoky green poblanos, shiny purple bells, lantern-shaped habaneros, perky plump red cherries. It was a pepper smörgasbord. I took some pictures, and then I filled my one remaining bag with all kinds of peppers: Anneheim, Fresno, Hungarian, jalapeno, serrano. When the bag was full, I sheepishly asked for another, discarding any previously displayed discipline. I had no idea what I would use the peppers for – I wasn’t thinking; I just had to have them. Luckily, this wasn’t a shoe store.
So, several days later, after putting the peppers to satisfying decorative use in a bowl on my old Provençal farmer’s table, it’s time to eat them. I think I will simply sauté them, because I’ve become attached to the aesthetic qualities of my peppers, and I think this will help retain their vibrant color and structure the best. For an easy dinner tonight, I will make bruschetta topped with the sautéed peppers and melted cheese. If I have any peppers left over, they can be used tomorrow in a pasta salad, a vegetable tian or as a pizza topping.
Sweet Pepper Bruschetta with Mozzarella
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course
For the bruschetta:
4 – 1/2″ thick slices of peasant or sourdough bread
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the peppers:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lbs. (800 grams) mixed summer peppers, stemmed, seeded, large peppers cut lengthwise in strips, small peppers sliced horizontally in rings
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 buffalo mozzarella cheese, cut in 4 slices
4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh basil leaves
Make the bruschetta:
Grill the bread on both sides on a griddle pan or in an oven until toasted golden. Smash each garlic clove with the side of a large kitchen knife. When the bread is grilled, brush each slice with olive oil and rub the smashed garlic over the bread slices. Place on baking sheet.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, and sauté until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Add peppers and sauté until tender but not too limp, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
Spoon peppers over bread slices. Shred one mozzarella slice over each bruschetta. Sprinkle one tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano over bruschetta.
Grill in oven until cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute.
Remove from oven and arrange on serving plates. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Garnish with basil leaves.