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January 7, 2007

Piquillo pepper (Recipe: stuffed pepper tapas) {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Piquillo

Say this three times fast:

PETER PIPER PICKED A PECK OF PIQUILLO PEPPERS.
PETER PIPER PICKED A PECK OF PIQUILLO PEPPERS.
PETER PIPER PICKED A PECK OF PIQUILLO PEPPERS.

No matter how tongue-tied you get, piquillo peppers — a relatively new addition to The Perfect Pantry — are worth it.

Sweet piquillos hail from the Navarre region of northern Spain, where they grow only in the Ebro River Valley. Designated with a Denominacion de Origen, these distinctive peppers are short (two inches) and pointed (the word piquillo means "little beak"), in a triangular shape. Harvested during September and October, the peppers are hand-picked, then slow-roasted over a beechwood fire. As they roast, the peppers expel up to 60 percent of their water, concentrating the sweet, rich flavor. Then the peppers are peeled and seeded, but never rinsed, which means that you'll occasionally find bits of the blackened skin still attached when you open the package.

I never see fresh piquillos in the markets here; if I do, I will try roasting them slowly, like the tomatoes I roast and freeze every summer.

Thanks to the current popularity of Spanish food (especially the tapas style of dining), piquillos in cans or jars are available in most gourmet shops and from these online sources. You can always substitute roasted red bell peppers, from the Italian food aisle in the supermarket. (It's easy, though time-consuming, to roast your own; use the more meaty Holland red peppers, which yield a sweeter taste.) I go the other way; I substitute piquillos for roasted red peppers, because to me the taste seems more vibrant.

Piquillos, like all peppers, are high in vitamins C, E, A, and B complex, as well as carotene and fiber.

At tapas bars, piquillos stuffed with crab, or with potato salad, or with tuna or chickpeas, are one of the classic offerings. Creative cooks use them in tartines, rice, soup, pizza, and, of course, stuffed. I love piquillos in paella and on paella.

Stuffed pepper tapas

Makes 8 peppers, as part of a tapas meal; or serves 8 as an appetizer.

Ingredients

8 whole piquillo peppers, drained (reserve the oil)
7 oz boursin cheese (or herbed goat cheese plus 1 clove minced garlic), at room temperature
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fresh mint, minced
1/4 cup kalamata or black Nicoise olives, roughly chopped
A few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Dry the peppers and set on a rimmed sheet pan. Combine remaining ingredients in a small food processor, and pulse, adding the reserved pepper oil one tsp at a time to achieve a soft consistency. Stuff the peppers, place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until cheese just begins to melt slightly. Remove, and sprinkle with fresh parsley leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Comments

I was in Spain two years ago with my husband, and these peppers were indeed part of every Tapas Bar offering. Mostly stuffed with tuna in my experience. Lydia, your cheese filling sounds wonderful. I now go in search of piquillo peppers!

Boursin cheese, kalamata olives and roasted peppers: Have I died and gone to heaven?

Lydia, that is a great combination!

we never see piquillo peppers in the markets in Spain, they go straight from the field to the tins, as far as I know.

Lobstersquad, thanks for visiting! Now I know why we never see fresh piquillos here, either.

Hint to gardening friends: Wouldn't it be nice to grow some next season?

Followed Ximena's instructions here - these piquillos sound utterly yummy!!

Pille, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I love Ximena's blog (Lobstersquad), and I love yours, too. Hope my readers will follow the trail to Nami-Nami.

LOL! I laughed when I read the tongue twister being revised here. I can remember how I was able to memorize the original version of the tongue twister when I was still a grader. It only took me seconds to memorize it and until now I can deliver it properly.

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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