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Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Cypriot Roasted Peppers

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

 

I first had this appetizer in a small tavern in the Island of Cyprus, and the simplicity of the dish was such that I have been making it since mostly as an appetizer or as a quick lunch paired with fresh greens. The recipe is a three-part procedure, but once the ingredients are ready it can be assembled relatively fast. I suggest using a male eggplant. The best way to identify male and female eggplants is by looking at the indentation on the bottom of the fruit. The indentation on a male eggplant is round, while the indentation on a female eggplant tends to be deeper and a longer, flatter elliptical shape. Make the filling ahead of time but assemble right before serving.

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

  • 4 large red peppers, whole
  • 1 large eggplant, whole, peeled
  • ½ cup Israeli cuscus, large varietal
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • Bunch of fresh mint, washed, thorn
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon dry oregano or fresh
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup of baby arugula or similar bitter greens
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup toasted walnuts

 

Directions

1) Roasting the peppers

Select a heat source. Peppers are best roasted over a live fire, such as a gas burner or a charcoal or gas grill.

Coat the pepper lightly with olive oil. Using metal tongs, place the flesh of the pepper directly in the flame of the burner or as close to the heat source as possible. Rotate the pepper as the flesh closest to the heat blackens and blisters. Remove the pepper when it has blackened completely. Place it in a bowl and cover to allow it to steam (or put the peppers in a paper bag and close it). After 15 to 20 minutes, scrape off and discard the blackened skin. Remove and discard the seed pod, stem and inner ribs. You should have 4 whole red roasted peppers completely empty of its cavity. Set aside in a plate.

2) Roasting the eggplant

Turn your oven on to 425 degrees so it can begin to pre-heat. Cut your eggplant lengthwise in strips that are 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch thick. Brush your baking sheet with olive oil and arrange your eggplant in a single layer on the baking sheet. Lightly brush additional olive oil over the sliced eggplant. Place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the white "meat" of the eggplant has begun to brown. Cool eggplant and cut in ¼ inch dice. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan bring 1 quart of water to boil and cook cuscus for 8 minutes. Strain, cool and set aside.

Toss garlic in a large mixing bowl. Add oregano, cumin, mint, eggplant, cuscus, lemon juice along with baby arugula. Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper. Pour in the remaining olive oil and mix the ingredients well.

3) Assembling the stuffed roasted pepper

Fill each roasted pepper with the eggplant-cuscus filling utilizing the complete amount. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Arrange toasted walnuts around the pepper as garnish. Serve at once.

Note: Lacking an open fire you can use a broiler. Turn the heat to High (or turn on the broiler). If using a broiler, cut the pepper in half and remove the stem, veins, and seeds. Place the pepper on a broiler pan. The appearance may be different but equally satisfying. Make it gluten-free by simply replacing cuscus with quinoa which takes longer to boil (see packaging for instructions)

Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well." www.chefwalter.com / http://www.chefwalter.blog.com/

 

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