The recipe today has a very especial taste to me, more than the sweet taste of bell peppers marinated in olive oil but the taste of New York. We’ve been dreaming about visiting the Big Apple for quite a long time and finally we got to spend three days there. Even with a Chicago like weather and a cold I didn’t expect we managed to walk around and experience this parallel universe New York City is.
Central Park, Times Square or 5th Avenue? No, the highlight for me was Di Fara, no doubt. The legendary pizza place in Brooklyn has its fame for a reason, after all you’ve got to believe in a 78 years old Italian immigrant who makes from 100 to 150 pies a day, five days a week since 1969. Domenico DeMarco handcrafts each pizza; when he is sick or not available the place is closed. Forget about the pizza – if you can – this is pure history in front of you. Period!
OK, don’t forget the pizza or you would miss a transcendental experience and the chance to taste a real pie made with the finest Italian products. Their signature ingredient is sun dried bell peppers, which lead us back to this recipe (which leads me back to my memories…..sorry, just can’t help).
I’ve made dried tomatoes so many times in my life and even sold a few jars to friends, oven dried tomatoes I used to marinate in olive oil, garlic and dried oregano. They were pretty good, a bit time consuming but soooo worth to make. And after tasting Domenico’s pizza I could not wait to try the same process with bell peppers.
Drying or slow roasting, you name it. The idea here is to forget – well, kind of – your vegetables in the oven until they lose considerable amounts of water but are still meaty and softy. That is how I like my tomatoes and it works beautifully with peppers too, since they absorb much more olive oil and flavor from the marinade.
You will also notice I do not use racks, just baking sheets. That is because even though it takes more time for the pepper to dry, the juices are slowly caramelized on top and under the pepper and you don’t lose any flavor.
4 red bell peppers – about 1 ½ pound
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 garlic gloves, chopped
About 2/3 cup olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 250 ˚F. Remove the stem end of each pepper. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise (from stem end to tip) and remove seeds and ribs. Arrange the peppers in a baking sheet, skin down, forming a single layer.
2. Mix sugar and salt and sprinkle on top of the pepper.
3. Place baking sheet inside of the oven and bake for about an hour or until water accumulates on top of each slice of pepper. Turn skin up and continue baking. Turn them over once or twice throughout the drying process, which may take from 4 to 6 hours, depending on the size and moisture level of peppers. Just be careful to not over dry. If some peppers dry before others, remove them from the oven and reserve.
4. Remove dried pepper from the oven, toss with chopped garlic and drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil. Bring it back to the oven and bake for extra 15 minutes or until garlic is slightly golden.
5. Take the peppers from the oven, place them in a clean jar and cover with olive oil while they are still hot. It is better when consumed after a week but if you can’t wait that long, give it at least a day or two to build the flavors. Keep in the fridge and enjoy over pizzas, salads, pastas, panini, pestos, etc…