Archive for ‘Starters’

March 30, 2012

Roasted Hot Peppers & Lemony Ricotta

Assorted Italian Hot Peppers

On a recent work-related trip to Long Island, New York, I was fortunate enough to be taken to an Italian Market. With all the amazing foods around me, my first instinct was to grab a cart and do some serious food shopping, but I was 3 hours from home, and I only had a couple of minutes to look around. These beautiful peppers instantly caught my eye. I couldn’t leave without grabbing up an assortment to take home. I actually stated out loud that I couldn’t leave that day without these peppers! My insane food obsessions are with me at all times. I think I should start traveling with a cooler in the trunk, so I can randomly buy groceries wherever I go. You know, come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea.

I have a close friend whose Italian grandmother lived with her growing up. She was an adorable, non-English speaking, straight off-the-boat from Sicily, grandmother. A few years ago my friend shared her grandmother’s recipe for baked ricotta. Simple and so delicious. She served it with an olive, lemon zest, sun-dried tomato spread. I really do have a dear friend who lived with her little Italian grandmother and who shared a recipe for baked ricotta, but my romanticized memory of her Sicilian grandmother was all wrong, damn it! At this point I don’t think she’s even from Sicily! When I spoke with my friend to confirm the origins of the recipe for this post, she ruined it with the truth… the recipe was from her mother who found it in some magazine years ago. Oh well… regardless, I’m sticking with my memories of what I thought was her grandma’s recipe, and Anne Burrell’s baked ricotta from her book, Cook Like a Rockstar, as inspiration to make this cold ricotta spread to serve with the hot peppers. No baking required here. Lemony, creamy and soothing against the heat of the peppers – this ricotta partners perfectly with the roasted peppers and garlic.

Ready for the oven


  • About 2-2 1/4lbs assorted hot peppers (long hots, small chilies, frying peppers – you choose, just make sure they’re spicy)
  • 2 big heads of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To prepare the peppers: for cubanello/frying peppers, remove the core and cut in half or into thirds – like big rings. Cut long hots into 2 inch chunks or thirds, keeping seeds intact. Any small chilies can be left whole. Line a large baking dish with foil and add the peppers and whole peeled garlic cloves. Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat and give it a generous sprinkle of coarse salt. Using your hands, toss everything around ensuring it’s completely coated.

Place in the preheated oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue roasting for another 35-40 minutes or until the peppers and garlic cloves are soft and slightly golden on the edges. You want the peppers to slump but still hold together. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit. Put in a serving dish and drizzle with additional olive oil before serving.

To store any remaining peppers, place in a bowl and add olive oil to just cover the top of the peppers. Put in the refrigerator, covered. These will still be delicious for a few days. Serve at room temperature.

Roasted Italian Hot Peppers & Garlic

These peppers are really good with fresh mozzarella on ciabatta, or as I served them here with this lemony ricotta spread on crusty whole wheat baguette.


There’s really no science to this combination, so my apologies for not having exact measurements.

  • 1-1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Drizzle olive oil
  • Kosher Salt & Pepper

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whip it up like you mean it! The olive oil will help the ricotta become a bit fluffy, so just add enough oil until you like the consistency. You should only need about 1 tbsp.

Spread this deliciousness on bread and top with roasted hot peppers and mushed roasted garlic cloves. YUM!

I’m serious…. YUM!

January 29, 2012

Spicy Peperonata

Spicy Peperonata

I get together with my college girlfriends once a year for a weekend of belly laughing, binge eating and drinking. I know they’re reading this, so let’s be honest ladies – our days of being able to drink all night, dance like Beyoncé’s back-up dancers and eat as much as we’d like are long over. They were viciously taken away from us with the birth of our children, turning 40 and as my 13-year-old reminds me, our lack of present day coolness.

What we lack in coolness is compensated for by our collective chefness. I don’t think that’s a word, but I’m going with “chefness.” We are all brilliant cooks, and when you put us together we make a killer spread that would make Gordon Ramsay proud. And if he’s not proud, one of our other talents is being able to curse like truck drivers, so we can give it right back to him! I guess I had too many glasses of wine when I gave this recipe to my friend during our last weekend together. She called me with questions over the holidays and I had no idea what she was talking about, and had no written recipe here to help her. I think I just threw a little of this, and a little of that together to make this spicy peperonata. Thanks to Kristin, for helping me pull this together.

Peperonata can be served on crostini as an appetizer, as a topping for sandwiches, or even as a side with grilled meats. You can control how spicy you make this – we like it hot.


  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup capers
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2-1 cup jarred sliced hot cherry peppers, packed in vinegar, drained and stems removed (more or less, you decide)
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Rub the outsides of the whole peppers with a little olive oil and kosher salt. Set the peppers on a sheet tray covered with foil (helps with clean-up). Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the peppers begin to slump and brown, turning them periodically as they roast.

Remove the peppers from the oven, place them immediately in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the peppers cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes. This will make removing their skins really easy. Once cool enough to touch, peel off the skins and remove the seeds. Slice the peppers in long, thin strips and place them in a bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients to the peppers and stir. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

This can be made a day in advance. The longer it sits, the better the flavors come together. If making in advance, wait to add the chopped fresh basil until right before serving.

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