Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Warm Stuffed Piquillo Pepper Bruschetta


Last October I visited Barcelona, where I had the pleasure of eating countless meals bursting with extraordinary flavors. The Spaniards definitely have the culinary know-how to keep all who visit their beautiful country happily sated.


I particularly fell in love with the baked stuffed red peppers with goat cheese and rose jam at La Alcoba Azul. Holy hot goat cheese, Batman. These peppers were sublime, between the perfectly roasted exterior, the warm goat cheese filling, and the sweet rose jam to offset the savory and tang.


When I discovered this recipe for warm stuffed piquillo pepper bruschetta I immediately knew I had to try it. Finding canned or jarred piquillo peppers was a potential challenge, but I actually found them at my local Shaw's, which had them stocked in an aisle featuring an abundance of Pastene jarred goods.


The jar I purchased contained 14 piquillo peppers. I made this recipe for a recent game night, following the recipe below, and then a couple days later I prepared the remaining 6 peppers with a slightly scaled down version of the filling.


This is one of my new favorite appetizer recipes! I'm not even remotely exaggerating. Picture a warm roasted piquillo pepper filled with soft goat cheese blended with roasted garlic, thyme, and basil. This plump stuffed pepper sits atop a crispy/chewy toasted slice of baguette, and is finished with a drizzle of sweet balsamic glaze and a sprinkle of basil chiffonade.


It's glorious, epic, outstanding. The colors themselves lend this dish perfectly to your next Christmas gathering (it's not too early to start bookmarking and pinning recipes!). It's not time-consuming or overly fussy. It's beautiful, delicious, decadent, and definitely worth making over and over again.


Instead of making your own balsamic glaze, you can also use store-bought balsamic glaze or balsamic reduction if you prefer. I've done it both ways, making my own glaze the first time (these photos showcase the homemade glaze), and trying a store-bought fig and balsamic glaze the second time, and both were excellent. The store-bought glaze seemed to cling to the peppers a bit better than the homemade version, but the flavor was great regardless.


Warm Stuffed Piquillo Pepper Bruschetta
Makes 8 servings
(Adapted from Share)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Olive oil
6 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 small canned or jarred piquillo peppers, drained and patted dry with paper towels
8 (1/2-inch thick) slices baguette bread (slice on the bias to yield greater surface area)

To make the balsamic glaze, in a very small saucepan heat the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar over medium heat until it reduces by about one-third (this can happen quickly for such a small amount of vinegar--keep an eye on it). Let cool. It should be syrupy. If it's too thick, dilute with a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar. If it's too thin, boil it down a bit more. Set aside. Alternatively, you can use store-bought balsamic glaze.

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees F. Place the garlic cloves on a small piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil. Wrap the garlic cloves with the foil and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until tender (open the foil and poke with a fork--it should be completely fork-tender). Remove from the oven and remove the skins from the garlic cloves--they should slip right off.

Add the roasted garlic cloves to a medium mixing bowl and mash with a fork until smooth. Add the goat cheese, 1 tablespoon of the basil, and the thyme, and mix with a rubber spatula until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Snip the corner from a 1-quart plastic bag (or snip the tip of a small pastry bag) to make a 1/2-inch wide opening. Transfer the goat cheese mixture to the bag. Pipe equal amounts of the cheese mixture into the peppers. The peppers can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before heating.

Position the broiler rack about 8 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler on high.

Put the bread slices on a broiler pan and toast them in the broiler, turning occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes. Arrange the toast on a serving platter. Turn off the broiler.

Put the stuffed peppers in a flameproof baking pan and transfer to the turned-off broiler. Heat the peppers just until they are warm and plump, about 3 minutes (you can also heat them very quickly in a 350 degree F oven if the leftover heat from the broiler isn't warming them through, just be careful not to overheat them or the cheese will melt).

Using kitchen tongs (let's be real, I used clean fingers), carefully top each toast with a pepper, taking care not to squeeze the filling out of the pepper. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon basil and finish with a drizzle of the balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.

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