Roasted Red Pepper Sunshine Salad

Although I no longer have the luxury of a having a loving mom make this dish for me whenever I please, it now emerges from my own kitchen on a weekly basis once it’s the right season. The flavours and brightness of the dish will always be the embodiment of summer and warmth for me, and I hope you can create similarly joyful memories with it.

It’s amazing how one food or flavour can take you back to a really specific moment in time. Everything about this dish, its taste, its smell and its vibrancy, takes me back to warm summer evenings in our terrace in Rome.  The smell of roasted peppers would linger in our kitchen for hours. Mom would then mix them with tuna, day-old bread, capers and olives and that sweet smell would be the sign of the lunch or dinner to come for a couple of days.  I have to admit, I spent many years hating peppers and picking out the pieces of tuna which hadn’t been ‘infested’ and eating those with bread.  From one summer to the next, however, I realised just what I had been missing out on and never turned my back on the stuff again, now leaving out the tuna completely.  Who would have guessed?

You could easily eat the roasted peppers on their own, without the bread, capers and olives but they really do make a difference.  As there are so few components in this dish, it’s worth it to go for really good quality ingredients.  In terms of olives, I like to buy kalamata, castelvetrano, cerignola, liguria, gaeta, or niçoise olives, as I find they’re tastiest and closest to where I am.  In terms of capers, I tend to buy them salt-stored rather than in vinegar or brine.  When it comes to bread, I rely on my favourite sourdough loaf, but any will do.  You’ll just want to make sure that it is a little stale as it will become too soggy too quickly if fresh, so just leave it on the counter for a day.  And in terms of oil, I can’t stress enough how much of a difference it makes to get a good quality olive oil, probably more than anything else when bringing a dish together.  So do a tiny bit of research into what is stocked around you and invest a little, I promise you won’t regret it!

Roasted Red Pepper Sunshine Salad

(Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side)

4 peppers, red and yellow
1/2 loaf day-old bread, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
7-8 capers, rinsed and patted dried
8-10 olives
1/2 tsp salt

Pre-heat your oven to 190˚C on grill. Put the peppers on a baking tray, and place the tray at the top shelf of your oven. Let the peppers cook on each side for about 10-15 minutes, until charred and dark (don’t worry, the skin will be removed!). Once each side is charred, remove the peppers from the oven and transfer them into a container or tupperware and cover with a lid. The steam will make the skins come off easily. Let them sit for 15-20 minutes. Once you’ve let them sit, carefully remove the skins and seeds. Transfer the peppers into a serving bowl, along with their juices. Throw in the bread chunks, the olive oil, the capers, olives and salt and mix until combined.

Let it sit for 5 minutes before serving. This dish is great both warm and cold, and both as a side or as a main with some greens and hummus.

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