Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Philosopher's Lunchbox: A Suggestion

For a person who is not entirely sure that she enjoys red peppers (or, as my Antipodean roots would have me say, capsicums), I sure eat a lot of them. They have their advantages, to be sure. They can be consumed cooked or raw; they are (insert arbitrary term for positive dietary status); they are… colorful. But I’ve never been entirely convinced by their taste, and so continue to eat them from the motive of duty alone.

This simple, pretty, classic salad had me at hello, however. But – calling all Kantians – I wonder if eating it can still be considered worthy?

3 bell peppers (ideally: one red, one orange, one yellow)*
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
1 blob of fresh mozzarella cheese (buffalo if you’re feeling spendy), sliced
1 handful fresh basil, torn
sea salt (preferably grey)
black pepper
optional additions: pine nuts, olives, avocado, lightly steamed green beans

* Don’t use green peppers; they don’t roast up nearly as well.

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Place peppers and cherry tomatoes in a large roasting tin, with a good drizzle of olive oil and a generous amount of sea salt tossed over the tomatoes.
3. Roast for about 30 minutes. Enjoy the lovely smell wafting through the house.
4. Check to see how the vegetables are doing; the tomatoes should be soft but still retain their shape, and the peppers should be crinkly and brown. If necessary, you can turn the peppers to get the skin crinkly and brown all over, but I found this wasn’t needed.
5. Remove the vegetables. (Try to get me to say ‘veggies’. I dare you). Put the peppers into a large bowl, and seal it tightly with cling-film. You should see it start to steam up quickly.
6. After a minute or two, the steam will have done its work, and the peppers should be easy to peel by hand. Thus, you should peel them.
7. Chop peppers into thin ribbons.
8. Layer the tomatoes, peppers, mozzarella, basil and any additions artistically in a salad bowl or on a platter.
9. Make a dressing with any olive oil left at the bottom of the roasting tin (don’t shun the brown, crusty bits from the tomatoes; they add great flavour), and combine with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Taste and adjust the dressing as desired.
10. Pour on the dressing, and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Unlike many, I don’t like pepper on everything. It’s a spice, not a seasoning, and in my view should be used with subsequent discretion. But it’s really good here.

Enjoy, perhaps with some crusty bread – olive bread is especially delicious with this. A tasty lunch, and eminently transportable.


Fat said...

As long as you eat it out of a sense of duty alone, I don't see any reason why you can't enjoy it. Congratulations on your start as a food blogger. Now how about a recipe for buttered pasta?

Spider Monkeee said...

Whew, what a relief (*wipes brow*). And thank you for the encouragement, mysterious stranger! As it happens, I think I can oblige you, since I actually used to make buttered pasta for my Dad. The recipe? 1. Boil pasta, drain. 2. Add copious quantities of butter. 3. Provide the pasta-eater with a napkin, and instruct them to use it regularly whilst noshing. DON'T OMIT THIS STEP. For there's nothing more off-putting than trying to conduct a conversation with someone whose chin is dripping with butter. Believe me, I speak from bitter experience.