Roast Tomato and Red Pepper Salad

I’m on a Provençal kick this spring. Unfortunately, my farmer’s market has yet to open for the season, and week after week my green grocer sells mealy tomatoes and limp asparagus. So, despite the fact that it’s spring time, I’d have done better going on a Soviet cuisine kick for all the good produce I’m getting.

Fortunately, there’s fire. An open flame will do miraculous things to a piece of mediocre produce. Sad red peppers from the sad green grocer take on delightful qualities as they blacken over the gas burner. The skin bursts and blisters and blackens and rubs off under the tap. What is left is an alchemically perfected red pepper, stripped of its blemishes.

The recipe below is simple, yet has many steps, none of which should be skipped if you want that divine meaty succulence that comes from roasted vegetables. The recipe uses Dijon in the dressing, but I had some Momofuku mustard seed sauce left over from our weekend barbecue, so used that instead. It was excellent. I served it with sea bass and roast potatoes.

Roast Tomato and Red Pepper Salad

(Adapted from The Provencal Cookbook by Gui Gedda and Marie-Pierre Moine)

6 tomatoes

Salt

Pepper

8 Tablespoons olive oil (divided)

4 red bell peppers

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon red or white vinegar

1.)   Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Halve tomatoes and sprinkle cut side with salt. Turn over and press lightly on each tomato until the juices have just begun to run. Turn them over and drizzle on two tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside for five minutes to drain, and then place cut side up on a lightly greased baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

2.)   While tomatoes are cooking, char and peel red peppers. Wash and dry them and place each over a burner of your gas oven. This recipe definitely requires access to fire. Do not attempt using an electric burner. Using tongs, turn them over once one side has blackened thoroughly. Sparks can fly and things do get smoky, so definitely don’t leave your stove while you’re charring the peppers.

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3.)   When the peppers have cooled, wash off the blackened skin under the tap. Slice them open, scrape away the seeds and cut them into long strips. Wrap the pepper strips tightly in aluminum foil and put them in the oven with the tomatoes for 20 minutes.

4.)   When the tomatoes are done and cool enough to handle, skin them and cut them into quarters.

5.)   To make the dressing, combine garlic, vinegar, and mustard, and then slowly pour in remaining tablespoons of olive oil. Season to taste.

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6.)   When the red peppers have come out of the oven and cooled, combine everything together, season to taste and serve.

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