Spicy Roasted Pepper & Feta Canapés
Have you had enough pepper recipes from me yet? I’ve got a couple of peppers left, so this one might not be the last you see from my farm picking adventures.
What we’ve got here is a spicy, beautifully roasted pepper spread or dip, that you can put on a piece of fresh crusty bread, dip your melted cheese Panini sandwich in, or add broth and make it into a rich velvety soup.
Sometimes when we go for a quick picnic in the park in the summer, we stop by the Russian store, grab some fresh bread, cheese and a jar of their Ajvar spread for a little snack.
As I found out the mostly pepper spread is originally a Serbian dip claimed to be served as an appetizer in all of their restaurants. No wonder, this stuff is good!
Naturally, I looked at the label to see what it was made of, so that I could recreate it myself. The list of ingredients was pretty simple, peppers, eggplant, oil, garlic, salt and an acid. Shouldn’t be too hard to re-create I thought. I was right! The only thing I wasn’t too sure about was, whether they sautéed their peppers or roasted them, and if they removed the skin from the peppers or not, since the jarred stuff is creamy but with a bit of chunkiness. I decided to roast mine and remove the skin. Once I pureed the peppers, they emulsified into the most incredible, velvety smooth texture you would ever imagine! I loved it! and the added heat from the chilies! you really have to try it to see what I am talking about! I am not much of a spicy food eater, but I am completely obsessed with this spread!
Spicy Roasted Pepper & Feta Canapés
Makes: 13 – 8 ounce jars
For the Spicy Pepper Spread:
12 large bell peppers,
3-4 medium-sized eggplants (about 1 lb each) *optional*
1 large onion, diced, cooked in skillet until browned and soft
2-5 chili peppers, seeds removed
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons dry garlic or 1 head garlic, peeled & pressed
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
Fresh Baguette, sliced diagonally
How to make the Spicy Roasted Pepper Spread:
Rinse peppers under running water. Turn oven to 400F, set the rack in the middle.
Line 18×13 jelly roll baking sheet with foil and arrange peppers on the baking sheet. Roast until the top side is browned up and puffed up. Turn the peppers 90 degrees and put back in the oven until the top side is browned and puffed up again.
Remove peppers to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, then foil. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. This helps the skin to be removed easier. At this point the process can be broken up for two days – just leave the peppers in the fridge until next day when you can finish this.
Roast the eggplant the same way, then once peeled, place into colander or a sieve set over a larger bowl, then put a plate on top, and top if with something heavy. You want to leave it like this for at least 1 hour, so that all liquid is pressed out. This step is even more important with eggplant because the liquid has bitterness that needs to be removed and can not be cooked out like it can with peppers. Adding the eggplants to the dip is optional.
Peel the pepper, by braking a piece from the bottom of the pepper and pulling it upwards. It should come off pretty easy. Remove the seeds and the stem. Rinse under running water if needed. There should not be any skin anywhere, this will help keep the spread creamy and smooth.
Once peeled, place peppers over a colander or sieve and press out any remaining liquid. Then place the peppers into a food processor and process on high for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth and no chunks appear. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender to purée them.
Transfer mixture to a pot or a skillet large enough to contain the amount. Use bigger skillet then I have used or you will have to be extremely careful to not have it bubble over as it cooks. Cook the mixture in the pot or skillet over medium heat to evaporate more liquid and to make the pepper mixture thicker. It’s best to use non stick pot or skillet, so the bottom doesn’t scorch. Use a flat ended spatula or wooden spoon to continuously stir and scrape the bottom.
Meanwhile, add the eggplant and onion to the food processor (no need to clean it after the peppers) and process until completely smooth.
Wear disposable gloves and start working on the chili peppers. Remove and discard the stem, seeds and membranes and roughly chop the pepper. Combine the chilies with a couple of tablespoons of the pureed peppers and using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add this mixture into the pureed peppers that are cooking a bit at a time, each time stirring it in and tasting to make sure that your dip is as spicy as you want it. At this point you want it to be a little spicier than you would want it in the end because when you add the eggplant and the oil, it will be less spicy than it is now.
Add the salt, pepper, garlic and the pureed eggplant, stir to combine. Taste and adjust the salt.
If you started with a larger pot to begin with, you do not need to transfer the mixture into a different bowl, otherwise do so now, because you will need to add the oil and vinegar and stir everything together. Initially I used only 2 chili peppers, but when I added the oil and the eggplant it wasn’t quite as spicy as I wanted it, and because it was too late to add more chilies, I added about 1/4 cup of Sriracha sauce to bring it to the right spiciness level.
Now slice a fresh baguette into thin slices diagonally, spoon some of this Spicy Roasted Pepper Spread, then sprinkle with Feta cheese & you’re done!!
If you want to preserve this dip by canning it, stay tuned for a post describing this process.
And as always Bon Appetite & Happy Pinning!