June 2011

Piquillo Peppers

recipe by JOSÉ ANDRÉS

SARAH
TAYLOR

PHOTOS: MAREN CARUSO / FOOD STYLIST: CHRISTINE WOLHEIM

The Spanish know how to eat. No more evidence is needed than the invention of tapas, those appetizer-size dishes—think boquerones, patatas bravas, jamón ibérico—that go nicely with a glass of wine as a snack or, in quantity, a full meal. The popularity of tapas in this country is growing, thanks in part to José Andrés of the Bazaar at the SLS Hotel, who for more than a decade has been imaginatively conceiving traditional and avant-garde Spanish cuisine for American palates.

We asked the 2011 James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Chef to name one indispensable ingredient, and he singled out Spanish piquillo peppers. “These unique peppers are a beautiful red color, and they get sweet and a little smoky when roasted over a wood fire,” said Andrés. To showcase the piquant piquillos (named for their shape, which resembles a bird’s beak, or pico), “stuff them with cheese, sear them on a plancha or in a skillet, and you have a quick tapa.” The preparation may be elemental, but the result is far from ordinary.

Take note: The peppers worthy of Andrés’ esteem are from Spain, specifically Lodosa in the region of Navarra. Taste one, he says, and you’ll be transported to a bar seat at La Boqueria.

PIQUILLO PEPPERS WITH GOAT CHEESE

8 piquillo peppers
1 ounce Caña de Cabra cheese (an aged Spanish goat cheese), rind on
Spanish olive oil
Sherry vinegar
Sea salt
Microgreens

Place 4 piquillos in blender, puree until smooth and set aside. Stuff remaining piquillos with Caña de Cabra. Lightly oil a plancha or skillet over high heat. Sear piquillos on each side until they are caramelized and the cheese is melted.

Spoon the piquillo puree in a ring around the edge of two plates. Place two seared piquillos in the center of each. Drizzle a little sherry vinegar and sea salt on top, and garnish with microgreens.