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Roasted peppers, that staple of the Mediterranean pantry, are an easy way to preserve the taste of summer for the coming months, but the secret to great ones has nothing to with the peppers themselves. Red, yellow, orange or green; charred in the oven, on the burner or the grill; it doesnt matter. What really sets roasted peppers apart is the what you pack them in. But first, lets get roasting.
. Roasting peppers on a grill imparts the most residual flavor, but for ease, I typically do mine in the oven. Preheat to 400, and wash and dry the peppers. Arrange them on a sheet pan foil-lined if youre lazy like me with a couple cloves crushed garlic still in their paper. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, add salt, pepper and dried oregano and roast until blackened on both sides, about 30 to 40 minutes, turning the peppers once.
. When the peppers look good and blackened, remove them from the oven. Reserve the roasted garlic and transfer the peppers to a mixing bowl; cover bowl with plastic wrap. The heat from the peppers creates steam that's trapped in the bowl, helping the skins to separate. This takes time, so walk away. Go to the gym. Fly a kite. When you return in two hours or so, the peppers will be ready to peel.
. Even after steaming, peeling peppers can be tricky and time-consuming. Its also messy, so do it over the sink. Start by popping out the stem and opening the pepper. Wipe out the seeds, then find a crinkly corner of papery, oil-slicked skin and slowly peel it back, separating it from the peppers flesh. Transfer peeled peppers to a clean mixing bowl. If youre processing a large batch, at some point it will seem logical run the peppers under water, removing seeds and loosening skin. Fight this temptation!
Water will wash off all the charred taste the oven has given the peppers. Tenacious skin or obstinate seeds wont kill your roasted peppers, but rinsing off their flavor will.
. What you do after
the peppers are roasted is the secret to their greatness. Most commercial jars are packed in olive oil. Yawn. Packing the peppers in an herbaceous, sweet-and-sour vinaigrette impacts their flavor thirtyfold. The foundation of this vinaigrette is the leftover oil you see sitting in the first mixing bowl, now infused with pepper and garlic. Pour it into a clean bowl, add an equal amount of red wine vinegar, a tablespoon of honey, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine and pour over the peeled peppers. Herbs are next. Add whatever you have on hand this batch contains parsley, two kinds of basil, thyme, lavender, mint, lemon verbena, oregano and garlic chives and leave the leaves whole unless theyre (a) huge or (b) woody like rosemary or lavender. Give the peppers a good mix, taste for seasoning, adjust as desired and move onto the last step ...
. The science of canning and jarring evades your boy, so I just pack my peppers in recycled plastic containers. Add the peppers, plus red pepper flakes or dried chile for heat I used Market Days
cucarachas plus the roasted garlic cloves. Pour the vinaigrette over the peppers. If you come up short, top with straight olive oil so all peppers are covered. Attach the lids, give a shake and refrigerate up for six months though these guys are so good, they wont last past Halloween.