A very versatile pickled pepper dressing

In the relentless long game of regular home cooking, I’ve found few things lend a dish quite the appeal of chili peppers. They are the spicy, fruity, bright and earthy edible flakes of life.

I’ll save a treatise on dried chillies for another day. Today I want to rave a bit about the magic of fresh, roasted and pickled chili peppers. I’ve been stocking them up in droves lately on days when preparing dinner seems particularly overwhelming. Fresh sweet red and yellow bells; Sour Anaheims; fiery serranos; and sweet vegetable poblanos. Plus, frozen or canned roasted Hatch green chiles; pickled banana peppers and jalapeños; and sweet potted piquillos or cherry peppers.

Related: How to get out of your next salad rut (plus, a panzanella recipe suitable for a hearty lunch)

I like to deploy them as sneaky flavor accents in all kinds of dishes. A blistered red bell pepper on the stovetop creates a delicious base for pesto when tossed with olive oil, toasted almonds, garlic and a little vinegar. Pickled peppers spice up stewed beef, tuna salad, grilled cheese and scrambled eggs. Roasted green chiles add flavor and earth to a basic pasta sauce with garlic, anchovies and lemon.

Perhaps my favorite application is blending chili peppers into a few of the aforementioned forms — roasted and pickled, for example — then tossing them with oil and red wine vinegar to make a coarse vinaigrette. I flavor it with thinly sliced ​​red onion, woodsy oregano, and all the mild, sweet fresh herbs I have.


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It’s a great dressing for a hearty salad of romaine hearts with breadcrumbs and shaved manchego, a summery pasta salad, or a mix of finely shaved crunchies like carrots, celery and onion. You can mix it with just roasted potatoes for a delicious side dish or pour it over charred steak or grilled sweet potatoes (with feta, mmmm).

It would also make an excellent marinade for chicken or meaty fish. You can swirl it in a white bean dip, pour it over boquerones for a fancy Spanish snack, or just dip chunky chunks of toasted sourdough into it to your little heart’s content. A very versatile pickled pepper dressing, indeed.

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Recipe: Pickled Pepper Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1 Anaheim, Cubanelle or small poblano pepper
  • 2-3 teaspoons mixed pickled bell peppers, chopped (see cook’s notes)
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon ffresh oregano, chopped)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh arugula, basil, cilantro, dill or parsley, chopped (see cook’s notes)

directions

  1. Grill the fresh pepper of your choice directly over the gas burner (or under the broiler if your stove is electric), turning often, until blackened all over. Zip the pepper in a bag for 15 or 20 minutes, then remove most of the skin with a cloth or paper towel before seeding and dicing.

  2. Add the freshly diced bell pepper to a medium bowl along with the pickled peppers, red onion and oregano. Pour in the red wine vinegar and olive oil, whisking furiously until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the onion and peppers dangle in the dressing for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Cook’s Notes

For pickled peppers, consider banana peppers, jalapeños, pepperoncini, or piquillo peppers — any combination you like, from sweet to hot.

Likewise, feel free to mix and match when you reach for fresh herbs.

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