Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bell Pepper Rolls--For Party Dinners

Bell peppers, like tomatoes, can be turned almost into any dish. I have always liked their strong aroma and taste, but I love them even more since I learned years ago that they can be roasted and peeled off. Bulgarians use so much of pepper prepared this way that they invented a special clay pot to make the process of peeling easier. I just broil them in my oven and then peel them off easily.

Pepper-based dishes can enrich any menu, as starters, side dishes, or main dishes by themselves. In the past years I have been cooking and experimenting with roasted peppers a lot. I stuffed, fried, marinated, and pureed them. I also made many roasted pepper-based dishes--a soup, pasta, a tart, and preserves.

Some time ago, inspired by the Bulgarian cuisine where pepper is often paired with Feta cheese, I made slices of pepper rolled with goat cheese and prosciutto. It was an experiment based on the idea "whatever you have in your fridge" when I had unexpected guests coming and no time to do additional shopping. This combination happened to be excellent--the softness and sweetness of roasted peppers, delicate sourness of the goat cheese, and and the smoky taste of prosciutto turned this simple dish into an attractive dinner starter.

It became one of my most popular starters, I prepared it already several times for many of my guests. It tastes and looks great taste and also can be made a day or two ahead. Two of my French friends, ladies who are excellent cooks themselves, asked me to share this recipe. Since a party season is approaching, I thought this was a good time to post this recipe, as some may want to look it up searching for an idea to make a dinner more festive.

I served those pepper rolls with caper fruits, fresh parsley sauce, and a freshly baked ficelle.

Bell Pepper Rolls
(Serves six)

4 red peppers,
8-10 slices slices prosciutto or Serrano ham,
a log of goat cheese, about 8 oz, room temperature (this is important, as it can be spread more easily without tearing the soft peppers),
marinated caper fruits or capers to decorate,

For the parsley sauce:
1/2 cup of fresh, chopped parsley (can be either Italian or curly),
2 tbsp lemon juice,
1/4 cup olive oil,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Put whole or half peppers on a cookie sheet in an oven (on the highest rack) and set it for broiling at 400F. Let them broil until the skin on top is blackened and even partially charred. If you broil whole peppers, they should be turned once upside down.

2. Remove the peppers from the oven and place them all in a large container. Cover it with a lid and let the peppers cool down completely.
3. Take the peppers out of the container, remove seeds, and (using a small pairing knife) peel off the skin.
4. Cut each pepper in four and lay on the cutting board.

5. First, spread a slice of goat cheese on each piece evenly, season with ground black pepper, and put a slice of prosciutto on top and roll up.

6. Put pepper rolls in a refrigerator and let them chill for at least half an hour to set.

7. To make a parsley sauce put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until they make a smooth sauce.

Drizzle the rolls gently with the parsley sauce, decorate with caper fruits, and serve.