Grilled bell peppers with mint and my new life in Rome

I have been dreaming of this day for a long time.

Today life hands me the gift of writing a recipe again. A recipe for all of you who have been by my side throughout all that has happened in the last two years. For all of you who have called, sent messages, visited. For those of you who brought delicious food and offered a helping hand or a gesture of comfort. Today’s simple recipe is for all the love we have received.

photo: M. Kraemer

After my beloved Ruurd became ill, just a little over two years ago, so much has happened. For the longest time I felt like the lonely captain of a ship, trying to navigate through an endless storm. I worked relentlessly to run the farm, the agriturismo, and to deal with our family crisis. Often that ship felt like the Titanic.

But miracles do happen. Someone – angels – turned up at our door, and gave us the opportunity to change. Finally, last November, our farm was sold to an adorable couple who have fallen in love with the wild beauty of our magical mountain. Our corner of paradise could not have been in better hands.

In a few months I packed everything: the memories, the old furniture, my favorite kitchen equipment, and moved to Rome. We live now in a small apartment on the top floor of a 1939 building just South of Rome’s historic center. We enjoy great views all the way to the hills of the Castelli Romani.

vie from cooking school Rome Appio Latino is an old neighbourhood, with a great outdoor market, not a tacky souvenir in sight, and all sort of small shops and businesses at literally steps from where we live. People is kind and friendly and most have lived here for generations.

I feel home, I have always loved big cities. At the market I have already made friends with the butcher, the cheesemonger and with the guy who has special beans and spices. I can’t get enough of the cornucopia of foods on offer. I always come back from shopping with too much food, the vegetables are magnificent!

You might have wondered if I had retired, and the answer is no, of course! As you might have realised from this new version of the website, I am finally ready to offer cooking classes and other services.

I will tell you more about my projects in the next posts, but now is time for this month’s recipe.

Grilled sweet peppers are a staple on the Italian summer table, generally served as part of an antipasto or a side dish. The secret to obtain fantastic grilled bell peppers is to obtain thick, plump peppers which must be in season and access to fresh herbs and high quality extra virgin olive oil.

Grilling the peppers on the BBQ contributes an additional layer of smoky aroma. However, summers have become so hot and it’s hard to endure to stand by hot coals or to use the oven. Instead, I use a cast iron griddle which is easy in a city apartment and does not heat up the kitchen as much.

Regardless of the cooking method, I find that the quality and freshness of the peppers is the most important factor to obtain a flavour which – you will appreciate -is vastly superior to jarred products.

Recipe

  • 3-4 large whole red or yellow pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves and/or basil
  • 1 clove of garlic

I use a 26 cm/ 10 inch heavy cast iron griddle which gets hot very quickly on gas, so I don’t preheat it. I just place the peppers in the pan and place it on the heat.

There is generally no need to oil vegetables if you use a very hot grill. This way the vegetables don’t smoke and you will avoid the unpleasant flavour of burnt oil.  It is also important to cover the peppers with a large lid which will make the process faster and disperse less heat in the kitchen.

how to grill Italian style bell peppers on the stovetop

Grill the bell peppers until skins start to blister, flipping them around so they blacken evenly on all sides. This should take about 20 minutes but time might change depending on your heat source and the thickness of the pan.
recipe to grill bell peppers Italian style

Do make sure to check them every 5 min so that only the skin will burn! The flesh should hardly cook otherwise the peppers will fall apart and you might not be able to peel them at all.

Once the peppers are ready, transfer them in a closed non reactive container (e.g. a stainless steel pan with a lid) or into a paper bag or wrap them with several layers of kitchen paper. Let them stand until cool enough to handle.

Peel the peppers, then open lengthwise, discarding stems and seeds. Cut into 5 cm/2 inch strips.

Place a shallow pan on low heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a clove of finely minced garlic. Simmer until fragrant then stir the peppers briefly in the aromatic oil. Switch the heat off, and stir in the mint or basil, torn into small pieces or cut – just before using – in to tiny strips. Note that some varieties of mint might become bitter if cooked, so be gentle with the last step.

If you have time, set aside the peppers in a closed container to marinade for a few hours or refrigerate overnight . Add a small pinch of salt just before serving, cold or at room temperature.

Serves 2-3

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Hello latizia. It’s so wonderful to see you again and hear your exciting news. If we come to Europe next year I will visit for a class in Rome!. I hope you both are keeping well. Best wishes from Australia. Robyn

  2. So wonderful to hear from you! We so enjoyed our visit and cooking class with you in 2018❤️stay well ! Wishing you all the best ?

  3. It’s wonderful to hear you’re back in action! And I love making grilled peppers, usually do this lightly oiled under the oven grill, and I add garlic and mint afterwards without heating the oil. Will definitely try your methods soon, I’ll let you know the difference!

    • ciao Boris! I like to grill vegetables without oiling because to avoid smoking and the flavor of brunt oil. Try this veruon with your good olive oil from Umbria and let me know if you agree 🙂

  4. So delighted to have you back! We are here until December and can’t wait to try some your new (and old) recipes.

  5. So happy to hear that you made the move to Rome. We just arrived in Rome today: This is the end of our trip to celebrate Matt’s 60th birthday. We started in Lucca, then Florence, Naples and Procida before arriving here. We have big news, too. We decided to retire early and plan to move to Lucca next September. Much to do before then, but we can’t wait to live in Italy at last.

    • How wonderful Lisa, please come to visit next time you are in Rome, it would be wonderful to meet again!

  6. Leticia. It is wonderful to see that you are able to begin doing again what you do so well, inspiring us to creativity in our kitchens. Thank you. red peppers, here I come. The market vendors are going to love you.

  7. I am crying with joy to see you back where you belong…….communicating with the world that loves you so much! And you sound so strong! I couldn’t love you more, my friend. You are truly an inspiration. Please pass our love to Ruurd and Tea. Sending you all my hugs and kisses, Linda (and Terry)

  8. What a wonderful post about the next adventure in your life. Great recipe as well. Wishing you all the best and the return of health to your husband.

  9. God bless you and keep you!
    So happy to receive your email. Best wishes on your new adventure.

  10. My dear friend, Joy, pure joy, to read of the beginning of this new chapter of your life. You are an inspiration and an example of fortitude, as is Tea who, in spite of her sorrow and pain for you and Ruurd, finished her studies…I’m sure quite brilliantly. Please congratulate her for me and express to her how proud I am of her and her demonstrated mature resolve. You are making the best of the bad hand you were dealt two years ago – how I admire you, dear friend. It is an honor to call you a dear friend. May Life reserve more gentleness ahead for you all!

  11. Loved hearing from you again, Leticia. I will always remember the two cooking classes I took with you on the mountain above Assisi. God bless you and your family.
    Agnes Cooley

    • Thank you Agnes, it’s so good to hear from you, very best wishes to you and family!

  12. Thrilled for you!!! Love reading the recipes and seeing your new home. Much deserved success to you my friend❤️??‼️
    Michele Nihen

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