Month of June: “My Berlin Kitchen” Recipes: Peperoni al Forno Conditi and The Best Nicoise Salad

“It’s not down in any map; true places never are. ” Herman Melville

A feast fit for a queen! This picture doesn’t do justice to the beauty of all these vegetables. The roasted pepper salad was such a complex flavor blended with oil cured olives (a newly discovered favorite), capers and anchovies. The homemade bread crumbs sprinkled on top added a contrasting crunch. My pairing choice, The Best Nicoise Salad proved my culinary instincts correct. I really was surprised by the lovely added sweetness of the roasted fennel bulb and tomato on the vine. Don’t underestimate the tomato on the vine, it’s absolutely worth the trouble finding it.

Right now I am reading a memoir/spiritual quest called “Comedy Sex God” by comedian Pete Holmes. In it he introduces a character by the name of Duncan whose words strike me about some people. He calls them vampires. The vampires he warns will keep you “stuck in the harbors of sorrow.” Abby was no vampire. Abby didn’t “drain life from people, (she) infused them, resuscitating their awe and brought color back to their cheeks.” She was the most generous human I have ever known, generous to every person she was involved with, not just with me. Generous to a fault it could be said. But the fault over time harmed the giver not the receiver. Ironically the cause of her death was cardiomyopathy, a complication suspected from her long history of unchecked Lyme Disease and possibly in addition, I wondered, from her lifelong tobacco addiction. In other words, she died from an enlarged heart.

Her gift to me now? I can hear her in my quiet moments, “I am with you always. Life is so brief. Learn to love yourself for real this time and then wait to see what happens!”

(postcard I sent to Abby of Helen of Troy)

Peperoni al Forno Conditi

Ingredients: 2 to 3 slices stale white peasant bread, 3 red bell peppers, 3 yellow bell peppers, 1/4 cup oil cured black olives pitted and chopped, 3 anchovy fillets finely chopped, 1/4 cup salt cured capers drained and rinsed, 1 cup minced flat leaf parsley, 4 tablespoons olive oil, flaky salt such as Maldon

  1. Cut the stale bread into rough chunks and pulse in a food processor until course crumbs. Spread crumbs on plate or paper towel and set aside to crisp up and dry out.
  2. Heat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash and dry the peppers and arrange on baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes turning the peppers every 10 minutes with a tong. By the end they should be all blistered and soft with juices escaping.
  3. Remove peppers, allow to cool until able to handle. Remove plug, seeds, skins. Tear or cut the pepper flesh into bite size strips or pieces.
  4. Put the salad together: Arrange peppers on platter or plate, sprinkle the plate of peppers with breadcrumbs, olives, anchovies, capers, parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Mix gently or just layer, and add a few pinches of salt to taste. Serve right away or let sit at room temperature, covered, for up to 4 hours before serving. If you’re not serving the peppers right away, don’t sprinkle on the breadcrumbs until the last minute, that way they will retain the crunch.

The Best Nicoise Salad

Ingredients: 1 large fennel bulb sliced very thin, good quality olive oil, maldon flaky salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1 pound cherry tomatoes on vine (don’t skip the vine type), 3/4 pound green beans, 4 large eggs, 1 pound fingerling potatoes, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, can of tuna preserved in oil, fresh lemon juice and 1/2 cup of nicoise or kalamata olives

1.Heat the oven to 250 F and roast the sliced fennel tossed with a little olive oil and seasoned well for about 40 minutes. Drizzle oil and season the tomatoes (leave vine on) and roast 1.5 hours.

2. Steam green beans and drain, running under cold water.

3. Hard boil 4 eggs and shell.

4. Cook potatoes and set aside (or use leftover German potato salad or make a fresh batch!)

5.About 30 minutes before you are ready to serve the salad make the dressing. Put mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl, add vinegar and whisk. Then add 1/4 cup of olive oil in a thin stream whisking continuously until you have a smooth creamy vinaigrette.

6. Put all cooled room temperature vegetables on a platter, arrange beautifully, open can of tuna and slice in quarters. Slice eggs in half and drizzle the salad with dressing to taste.

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