Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Cypriot Roasted Peppers
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
- 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
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)
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Upscale Chefs go "Downscale"
It's an incredible expense of time and money to be among the best chefs around. All of those high-end ingredients cost an arm and leg and the pressure to stay on top is enormous. Most cooks began learning at the feet of their older relatives--moms and dads; grandmas and grandpas. It's this food that calls them back. We see local Chef Jake Rojas rejoice in dropping the tweezers and cooking those SoCal family recipes he grew up eating. Local faves Thames Street Kitchen embarked on a burger concept this year and Providence icon Chez Pascal has its "Wurst Window" serving homemade sausage and comfort food. They're upscale food is wonderful, but this might be their best!
More Gluten Free Options
As we continue to pay the "processed food" price, our nation's food allergies continue to soar. Restaurants have been on the forefront of the movement towards options that take these allergies into account. The gluten allergy has taken the fore as bread and pasta and coated French fries became the first food victims of this allergy. Local establishments such as the Grange have taken gluten free to new heights with terrific vegetarian offerings. On the Hill, Pane e Vino has got an almost 40-item menu of gluten free options. It features everything an Italian meal could need without the worry.
Vietnamese as the "Go-To" Asian Cuisine
Every year it seems as though America "discovers" a new Asian country's food and gets hooked. This year it's the foods of Vietnam. Vietnamese food and ingredients have been a part of local Asian food for years now, but this time it stands on its own. Vietnam's food is highlighted by fresh, simple ingredients treated respectfully and flavorfully. Broths and noodles; lightly cooked meats and fresh vegetables all combine in a balanced meal. Locally we love Pho Horn in Pawtucket and Minh Hai in Cranston. Both are very good local versions of this wonderful cuisine.
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As with most things food and beverage, the last 10 years have seen a move towards "smaller is better". Big box stores are gone and chain restaurants are suffering locally. It was only a matter of time until these ideas began making their way into our cocktails and boy are we psyched to see what the future holds. Locally we have Sons of Liberty in South Kingstown, producing small-batch whiskey, single malts and, even vodka. Our state features Coastal Extreme Brewery which makes Thomas Tew rum along with their Newport Storm beer. We've only gotten back into the distilling business here in Rhode Island in 2006 but we think tasty things are coming soon!
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