Charred Pepper Salad
As a child, I never truly appreciated the abundance that I had growing up in Hawaii, with farmers as parents nonetheless. There was never a day that I wasn’t able to walk outside and eat something fresh off a tree. Although I have access to wonderful green markets in NYC, it’s not the same as stepping out your door and picking food fresh off the vine. Now, one of the first things I do when I get home is see what is popping up in my mom’s garden or sprouting out of the compost pile. The first thing that caught my eye this time were these beautiful little pimento peppers. They are similar to a red bell pepper, with a mildly sweet and juicy flavor. The little plant was loaded with them, so it was my mission to find some delicious use for them.
Coming home also means lots of outdoor grilling. This is definitely something that I long for in the city and can’t wait to do when I get home. My dad uses the grill as much as anyone else would use the oven or stove, it’s one of his main methods of cooking, and he is good at it! This makes my job even easier, he’s generally got it hot and ready so all I have to do is throw my food on. Naturally, my mind immediately darted to grilling these little peppers up, and tossing them in a simple lemon (also fresh from the tree) and anchovy vinaigrette. We were headed to the neighbors for dinner who were grilling up a rack of lamb, so it seemed like a delightful accompaniment.
Sweet red peppers, such as these, are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Vitamin A plays a valuable role in eyesight and the health and function of your retina. It also plays a vital role in gene transcription and thus embryonic development and reproduction. As a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C binds with free radicals to reduce oxidation and cell degeneration, and is important in immune function. Red peppers provide the body with folate which supports the function and formation of red blood cells. Lycopene, a carotenoid found in these peppers, also binds with free radicals and has been shown to have a positive effect on lowering incidences of certain cancers as well as cardiovascular disease.
Little anchovies pack quite a flavor punch. When used in small amounts in dressings or marinades, they impart a rich, umami flavor rather than a fishy taste. They are quite salty, especially when preserved in a jar or can, so you often won’t need additional salt when using them in a dressing such as this. They are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, and they contain magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus which all play important roles in bone health as well as cardiovascular health by regulating muscles that allow blood vessels to relax and contract.
This salad is a great side dish for any season, and would be delicious with the addition of some fresh herbs such as basil or rosemary depending on what you will be serving it with. I was wanting to add in some fresh mint, as it goes great with lamb, but I didn’t have any on hand and I’m not the type to run out for one ingredient. If you don’t have a grill, these could also be roasted in the oven or charred under your broiler.
Warm Charred Pepper Salad
- About a dozen pimento peppers (or 3-4 bell peppers)
- 1 lemon
- 2 T olive oil
- 2 anchovy filets
- fresh ground pepper
- Optional: fresh herbs - mint, basil, rosemary, etc.
Peppers: Remove the seeds and cut into approximately 1-2” pieces. Heat grill, grill pan, or broiler and cook until evenly charred and tender. Remove from heat and toss with dressing.
Dressing: In a small saute pan , gently heat olive oil. Add anchovies and mix until they break up and dissolve into the warm oil. Turn off heat and whisk in lemon juice and pepper. Add additional lemon and herbs if desired. Serve warm. It is great as a side for grilled meats and fish.