(photo by Mark Luinenburg) If you’ve read any of our books, you know that this particularly photogenic fruit (or is it a vegetable?) seems to have captured our imagination. After a year of perfecting the basic tomato/basil/mozzarella topping, I did (believe it or not) get tired of Pizza Margherita. Enter the smoky and savory roasted red pepper. Most people think if it as a pizza topping, sliced or roughly chopped, and I certainly use it that way, in place of mushrooms or other vegetable. But it’s more versatile than that. First, let’s quickly go through how to get this smoky, colorful result:
- Roast the red pepper: Remove the seeds and core, then quarter the pepper so it can be flattened. Char it under the broiler or on a gas or charcoal grill, with the skin side closest to the heat source. Alternatively, you can roast the pepper whole on top of the stove, right over a gas flame, turning frequently so that it chars on all sides. You are finished when the skin has mostly blackened (there can be some red areas). With most heat sources, you’re done in less than 10 minutes.
- Drop the roasted pepper (or peppers) into a bowl or pan and cover, so that the pepper steams in its own heat, for about 10 minutes.
- Allow to cool so it can be handled, then hand-peel the pepper and discard the blackened skin. Reserve the smoky brown liquid if you are making a sauce.
I use these a number of ways, in ajvar, a roasted red pepper and eggplant spread from Croatia (recipe in Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in 5), which is absolutely fantastic on hamburgers instead of ketchup.
But one of my favorites is a simple sauce that you can use instead of tomato toppings on pizza. Simply put a few roasted red peppers, with their juice, into the food processor and blend until almost smooth. Reduce it a bit over medium heat if it’s too thin. About two peppers and maybe a little salt makes enough sauce for a Pizza Margherita a la Peperone. Smoked gouda makes a nice swap here for mozzarella.
Farewell to the mundane. And soon, farewell to winter, despite Punxsutawney Phil’s recent prediction…