Broiled feta with Red Pepper Relish
Take a big rectangular hunk of feta, preferably French, drizzle with olive oil and stick under the broiler until it gets a bit of color and bubbles from the heat. Spoon the Red Pepper Relish, which you have prepared in advance, (recipe follows) over the top, and serve with toasted baguette slices or crackers.
Roasted Pepper Relish – adapted from the Zuni Café Cookbook
1 ½ T dried currants
2 tsp. sherry vinegar
½ tsp. warm water
12 ounces bell peppers (1 large or two small)
3 T pine nuts
1 T fresh chopped basil or arugula
2 small garlic, pounded to a paste
3 tablespoons sweet sherry or sweet Marsala (or balsamic vinegar if you don't have either of these)
1) Combine the dried currants, vinegar, and warm water, kneading the currants lightly.
2) Roasting and peeling the peppers: (You didn't hear this from me but bottled roasted peppers work pretty damn fine in a pinch, especially in winter when peppers are out of season. Of course, there is no substitution for the fresh ones!)
Note: Handle the roasting peppers gently – the collapsing cells release moisture, which you want to keep inside the peppers until you peel them. If you puncture the tender flesh, the sweet juice will spill into the roasting pan and dry out, or trickle into the fire.
To use the oven method, preheat the oven to 450. Set the peppers in a baking dish and pladce on the top rack of the oven. Turn as the tops grown and blister, and roast until they have nearly collapsed, 20 to 35 minutes, depending on size.
Transfer the roasted peppers to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, slide or rub off the skins – not worrying if some spots don’t want to release (do this over a second bowl, so you can capture some of the delicious juice). Charred skins tend to come off in chunks and bits; dip you fingertips in water occasionally as you remove them. Don’t rinse the peppers.
Still working over the bowl, pull off the stems and seeds. Separate each pepper into slabs. Combine the juice from both bowls and strain out skins and seeds.
Lay the pepper slabs on a cutting board, brush away any remaining seeds, and scrape or peel off any remaining large patches of skin with a paring knife. Again, don’t rinse the peppers, as you would only be washing away the flavorful syrup.
3) Assembling the relish:
Cut the peppers into small dice and combine with their juice. You should get about one cup.
While the peppers are roasting, set the pine nuts in the oven, if using, or in a small skillet over low heat to warm through, a few minutes at most. Coarsely chop.
Add the currants, pine nuts, basil or arugula, garlic, oil and Sherry or Marsala. Salt to taste.