One day we ate so much of our Roasted Red Pepper, Chili, and Pine Nut Sauce on chips, we had no room left for the lunch we had prepared. Aha, we thought. Next time well substitute ¼ cup good-quality grated Parmesan cheese for the ¼ cup water, and we’ll have a wonderful, spicy Italia-Mexicano pasta topping. And we were right! Keep this in mind next time you have a hankering for spaghetti.
Yield: Makes 2 cups
4 medium-size red bell peppers
6 medium garlic cloves
2 small serrano chilies, preferably red, stemmed
½ cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup water
1. Heat the oven to 500° F.
2. Place the bell peppers in the oven and roast until charred all around, about 25 minutes. Remove the peppers to a paper bag, twist to seal, and let the peppers steam in the bag for 15 minutes. Peel the peppers with your fingers and a paring knife and remove the seeds.
3. In a food processor or using a chef’s knife, mince the bell peppers, garlic, chilies, and pine nuts. Transfer to a bowl. Add the cilantro, salt, and water and stir to mix. Serve right away, or cover, refrigerate, and use within 1 week.
Near Shreveport, Louisiana, there’s an enclave of Spanish among the cajun people. Their music is the jumpingest and their gumbo the hottest. Their fields are red with every kind of pepper including sweet red peppers. To top their fresh Gulf oysters, warm their version of tacos—fresh seafood, bits of chicken, frogs’ legs ensconced in biscuits—and sauce their crabcakes, they use their favorite spicy elements: garlic, bell pepper, and chilies. We first adapted this Shreveport-style sauce as a topping for our own barbecued oysters. We bought big ones from a Gulf oyster house. In time we craved the sauce on more foods. We added the pine nuts and cilantro and turned it into a taco topping fit for a Cajun King.