The peppers!

The peppers!

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Every autumn for the past three years has found me dicing snaky sweet peppers and cooking them slowly in extra-virgin olive oil.  The result is a condiment that brightens everything it touches.  It’s simple – just peppers and oil without the encumbrance of garlic or herb or other spice.  Why? Because the peppers have a range of deep flavor that concentrates as they cook slowly in the oil, giving a pure, perfect flavor.

In the pot

In the pot

Peppers aren’t a Norman specialty. But for Baptiste Bourdon, my farming alter-ego, they have become what the French call one of his  “produits phare,” or specialties.  He sells the peppers individually as though they were jewels, and clients treat them as such, setting them gently in their baskets out of harms’ way.

Baptiste grows several pepper varieties and the one I like best is the thin, long, curly Doux des Landes (solanaceae Capsicum annuum). An expat in Normandy, it comes from the Landes, in southwest France, but it grows so well in Baptiste’s field that I wonder if it’s a happy accident of global warming.

I eat the peppers every way, from raw to sautéed, pureed, and in this condiment, which I use constantly.  The other night I layered it with baked eggplant; I drizzle it on fresh goat cheese, slip it under the skin of a chicken before I roast it, dollop it on freshly steamed fish.  This morning it was my butter substitute on toast.  Sometimes I blend it with minced garlic and basil, or add a sprinkling of Piment d’Espeletete to make it spicier.  I love having it on hand, and it keeps well as long as it’s covered with oil.

If you cannot find the specific pepper called for, you can try this with a simple red bell pepper. You may not get quite the fine dice, but you’ll get a mouthful of flavor no matter what.

Bon Appétit!

Pepper confit on fresh goat cheese

Pepper confit on fresh goat cheese

Pepper Confit – Confit de Poivrons

1-1/2 pounds (750g) red peppers (Doux des Lands, Corno di Toro or Sweet Nardello

varieties are  ideal, or red bell peppers ), trimmed, all pith removed, cut into very small dice

1-1/2 cups (375ml) extra-virgin olive oil

Fine sea salt

1.  Place the peppers and the oil in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.  When bubbles start coming up in the oil from the bottom of the pan and the oil is just about at a simmer, reduce the heat so the oil stays that way, and cook until the peppers are tender, without allowing the oil to boil, about 25 minutes

2.  Remove the casserole from the heat and let the mixture cool, then store it in an airtight jar.

About 1-1/2 cups (375ml) of peppers in oil

 

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8 Responses to Red Pepper Essence

  1. carole webb says:

    I have just read the book on rue tatin and immediately looked up the website and more importantly to see if there was a FB site that I could like and get a feed into my timeline – the first entry was the simple red pepper confit – how lovely – will definitely make that this autumn.

    • Susan says:

      Carole,

      do make it! You’ll love it.

      Susan

      • carole webb says:

        For all you foodies and francophiles – this is a great FB site – I just read Susan Loomis’ book – On Rue Tatin that Jill Smith kindly lent me – I was transported to Louviers in northern france for two days as I just couldnt put it down. Susan is a talented cook, cookery writer and a very descriptive general writer – I felt at the end I knew the markets the shops and all the people she met in her life in France as an American.

        Not that you want to publish this but I just thought I would share with you the post I just wrote on my FB wall.
        Thank you Susan for your delightful writing

  2. Eileen says:

    This is a perfect replacement for the chimichurri sauce I have been using all summer on grilled fish, steak and chicken. I may try another varietal of something spicier than a red bell. Will let you know how it turns out!

    • Susan says:

      Eileen,

      Thanks for this. I always worry that something this simple won’t seem fabulous enough on paper, but you’ve proved the contrary!
      Thank you!

      Susan

  3. Those gorgeous peppers would make any dish a show stopper. I love how simple the recipe is and can’t wait to make it. If this is half as good as your red pepper chutney I will love it.

  4. Gretchen says:

    This time of year wonderful peppers can be found in our neighborhood farmers markets in Seattle–products of the Alvarez Family Farm,in Eastern Washington. Great job on the photos, Susan!

    Learn more about the Alvarez Family Farm at http://farmersmarket.com/blog/local-farms-focus/alvarez-organic-farm-committed-to-family-farming

    • Susan says:

      Gretchen! Hello and thank you! BTW, I made an Italian plum and pear tart last night for a wine tasting, with India Tree Muscovado sugar. Scrumptious!

      Susan

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