Friends who are diabetic (Type I) are coming to stay at Villa Campestri next week. We wanted to do a special menu–no pasta, no bread, but still very Tuscan–to fit their dietary requirements.
Fortunately, Tuscan tradition calls for loads of beans, especially cooked with plenty of sage and garlic and dressed with lots of olive oil, and fresh borlotti, the red and white streaked beans, are starting to show up in local markets.
I’m thinking of a salad with steamed borlotti beans, crisp green celery, sherds of red onion and plenty of basil. And then, with summertime drawing near, there are so many brilliant vegetables coming along–fleshy red and yellow peppers. This is my take on the pepper-and-anchovy antipasto you see in so many restaurants but I think my version is much easier to throw together. Serve it as an antipasto, or a contorno to go with grilled meat or fish, or chop the finished peppers with all the other ingredients and use it to top a pasta (not for my diabetics, however).
It’s so easy it doesn’t even deserve the name of “recipe”:
Turn the oven on to 375ºF. With the big Italian peperoni, I figure on half of each to a serving–so two peppers will serve 4 e via dicendo, as we say. (Smaller peppers from your farmer’s market might come out two to a serving.) Cut the peppers in half the long way and remove the seeds and inner white membranes but leave some of the stem intact to hold each half together. Lightly oil a baking dish in which all the halves will fit comfortably in one layer and set the peppers in the dish, skin side down. Now add to the inside of each half: a few thin slices of garlic; a little cherry or grape tomato (or 2 or 3) cut in half, cut side down; an anchovy fillet cut in 3 or 4 bits; a half dozen capers (carefully rinsed if you’re using salted capers, which are the best). You could also add a couple of pitted black olives, coarsely chopped, or a dab of fresh goat’s cheese–but don’t get too carried away. Remember, simpler is always better in the kitchen. Now top each pepper half with about half a tablespoon of really good olive oil and several grinds of black pepper. No salt because the anchovies and capers will take care of that.
Slide them into the preheated oven and let them roast away for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the edges are brown and the peppers are tender all the way through. Remove and serve immediately; or set aside and serve later at room temperature. They make a great addition to a meze or a buffet table although they’re hard to eat standing up. For an extra touch, sprinkle some chopped fresh basil over the top of each half just before serving.