Hot and Sweet Pepper Crostini

crostini peppers

Late summer reaps brimming bushels of peppers in a kaleidoscope of color and shapes. I shop with my eyes, because the first thing I do when I get home is pile my peppers into a bowl where they do double-duty as a decorative centerpiece. Gnarly basques, pristine cherries, sturdy pimentos, and pert jalapeños vie for my attention, and I slowly pick away at my psychedelic pile of peppers as I cook throughout the week, adding them to salads, stews, pasta, and pizzas.

This simple recipe showcases a colorful assortment peppers on crostini and makes a great starter to a meal. I like to use a mix of sweet and hot for more complex flavor. When using hot peppers, such as poblanos, serranos, and jalapeños, remember that they can vary in heat, so take a small bite to test their strength. The heat is concentrated in the ribs and seeds of the pepper, so remove as much as desired with kitchen gloves or the tip of a paring knife to protect your fingers from the oils.

Hot and Sweet Pepper Crostini with Mozzarella

Choose a variety of peppers to your taste – for this recipe I used poblanos, hungarian pimentos, and gypsy peppers. Makes 12 large crostini.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt
12 slices baguette, cut on the diagonal, ½-inch thick

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound sweet summer peppers, stemmed and seeded, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish

8 ounces buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced
¼ cup basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Make the crostini:
Heat the oven to 375°F. Whisk the oil, garlic, and salt in a small bowl. Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and lightly brush with the oil. Transfer to the oven and bake until the bread is lightly toasted, 12 to 15 minutes.

Saute the peppers:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and saute until crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and black pepper and saute 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Arrange a slice of mozzarella over each crostini. Top with some of the peppers. Broil in the oven until the cheese begins to melt, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and  garnish with fresh basil.  Serve immediately.

Peppery Potato Salad

pepper potatoes tastefoodNo-Mayo Potato Salad with Sweet and Spicy Peppers  

This no-mayo potato salad is packed with peppers. Early fall yields a rainbow of pepper fruit at the farmers market – sweet bells, cherries, hungarian, fresnos, jalapanos and poblanos – it’s impossible not to scoop up a bag’s worth of these beauties simply for their colors and impossible shapes. The trick is to find all sorts of ways to put them to use. Here is one – this peppery potato salad.

The key ingredient in this salad (aside from the peppers and potatoes!) is white balsamic vinegar which lends a gentle fruity acidity. Do not substitute traditional balsamic vinegar as its dark color and syrupy consistency will overwhelm the salad. Use, instead, a high quality white wine vinegar and add 1 teaspoon of sugar to the salad.

Peppery Potato Salad

A little spice is nice! Mix up the peppers to your taste, adding a combination of sweet and hot peppers. Serves 6 to 8.

2 pounds yukon gold potatoes
Sea salt
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons dried mustard, such as Colmans
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes, optional
1 poblano pepper, stemmed and seeded finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 to 2 Jimmy Nardello or sweet Italian red peppers, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1/2 bunch green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves

Quarter the potatoes and place in a large pot. Cover with cold water and add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and cool 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and add the vinegar, 2 tablespoons oil, the mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, the black pepper, and chili flakes. Stir to combine, breaking up any large chunks of potatoes, and let stand at room temperature until lukewarm, about 30 minutes.
Add the 1/4 cup olive oil and the remaining ingredients. Stir to thoroughly combine, and taste for seasoning. You may want to add a little more salt or a pinch of sugar, depending on the sweetness of the peppers.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Pasta Provençal with Basil, Sweet Pepper, Tomatoes and Olives

Provencal Pasta Salad

When the weather is hot and sticky, no one wants to cook. At this time it’s nice to have a few recipes on hand for easy, light, flavorful meals that reflect the season and little heat. Pasta Provençal does just that. It takes advantage of late summer’s bounty of vegetables without being too complicated. While this recipe calls for sweet peppers, tomatoes and basil, feel free to experiment with grilled eggplant, zucchini or yellow squash. The beauty of this recipe is that it is fresh and unfussy, perfect for a warm and sultry summer evening.

Pasta Provençal with Basil, Sweet Pepper, Tomatoes and Olives

Serve with a green salad and cold rosé wine.
Serves 4-6.

1 pound farfalle
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red pepper, stemmed, seeded, ribs removed, cut in matchsticks
2 cups small cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted, halved
1 fresh mozzarella, shredded
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 bunch, about 1/2 cup, fresh basil leaves, shredded

Bring a pot of salted water to boil.  Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain. Pour pasta into a large serving bowl.  Toss with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Add red pepper, tomatoes, olives, mozzarella and garlic. Toss to combine. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Add cheese and basil, and gently toss. Serve warm or at room temperature with extra grated cheese.

Sweet Pepper Bruschetta with Mozzarella

Sweet Pepper Bruschetta

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.