l love putting vegetables on a griddle or barbeque: they look great (those charred black stripes look great against the colorful background of the vegetable in question), they taste great (those charred black stripes equal more flavor and more texture) and there’s something reliably robust and crappy about them who, arguably, don’t always show their sausage friends. Stuff them, roast them, grill them, dress them: it’s time to play!
Grilled romaine lettuce with charred corn and salsa roja (pictured above)
Grilling offsets the natural bitterness of romaine. If you’re cooking these on a barbecue, wait until the flames are out first.
Preparation 10 minutes
Cook 35 minutes
100 ml buttermilk
4 romaine lettucecut in half lengthwise
50 ml vegetable oilor other neutral oil
For the salsa roja
3 plum tomatoes (250g)
1 romano pepperhalved lengthwise, stem, seeds and pith removed (150 g)
1 onionpeeled and cut into quarters
5 red peppersstems removed, seeds and pith scraped out and discarded if you want less heat (50g)
1 whole head of garliccloves separated and unpeeled
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
¼ tsp light soft brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cumin
For the corn flavor
2 corn expressing
50 g unsalted butter
1½ tsp urfa chili
1 limepeel finely grated, to get 1 tsp, then squeezed, to get 2 tsp
2 small spring onionstrimmed and thinly sliced
Flakes of sea salt, table salt and black pepper
First make the salsa roja. Place a lightly greased grill pan over high heat and ventilate the kitchen. Once the pan is piping hot, place the tomatoes, bell peppers (cut side down), onion wedges, chillies and garlic cloves, and grill, turning if necessary, until nicely charred and tender – the garlic will take four to five minutes, the peppers about 10 and the tomatoes, onions and peppers 20-25 minutes. When each vegetable is charred and ready, transfer it to a plate and set it aside to cool.
Once the tomatoes, onions, and peppers are out of the broiler pan, place them in the corn for about five minutes, charring, turning if necessary. Remove from baking sheet and set aside to cool, then place pan over low heat.
Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins and place the pulp in a blender with all the other charred vegetables except the corn. Add the vinegar, sugar, cumin, 50 ml water and three quarters teaspoon salt and puree until smooth. Pour this into a medium bowl and then stir in the buttermilk.
Hold each corn cob vertically on a plate and run a sharp knife along the sides to remove the kernels (discard the core or save for stock). Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook for five to eight minutes, until melted, smelling nutty and nicely browned. Remove from heat and stir in the urfa and corn and set aside to cool.
Turn the heat under the grill pan back to high. Brush the cut side of the lettuce halves with half the oil, place four cut side down on the grill and roast for four minutes. Brush the outsides of the romaine halves with more oil, turn them over carefully, roast for a further four minutes and place cut-side up on a platter. Repeat with the remaining four romaine halves and oil.
Sprinkle the charred lettuce with a generous pinch of finely ground sea salt, spoon over the salsa roja and buttermilk mix and push the sauce between the leaves. Stir the lime zest, juice, spring onions and a quarter teaspoon salt flakes into the corn mixture, spoon over the lettuce and serve warm or at room temperature.
Grilled baby peppers stuffed with cheese and onion
Baby peppers are super sweet and have a great texture once grilled. If cooking them on a barbecue, wait for the flames to ember to an ember before placing the peppers on top; in the meantime, when the coals are at their hottest, sear the scallions. If you want to go ahead, cut the onions and stuff the peppers a day in advance. You will need at least 16 small toothpicks to secure the filling inside the peppers.
Preparation 5 minutes
Cook 45 minutes
Serves 4 as a starter or as part of a meze
8 baby peppers (also known as piccellera peppers; about 400g)
For the filling
8 spring onionstrimmed, green parts thinly sliced, whites whole (130 g)
2 tsp vegetable or sunflower oil
150 grams of cream cheese
30g Parmesan cheesefinely grated (or a vegetarian alternative)
1 large limehalved, one half grated, to get ½ teaspoon, and juice, to get 1½ teaspoon, the other half whole
Flakes of salt and black pepper
For the honey dressing
1½ tbsp liquid honey
1½ tbsp good quality red wine vinegar
1½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Make the filling first. Heat a griddle pan over high heat until piping hot. Place the whites of the scallions in a medium bowl with the vegetable oil, toss together, place in the hot pan and grill, turning often, for about six minutes, until completely blackened. Transfer to a plate to cool and place the baking sheet over a low heat.
When the grilled onions have cooled, thinly slice and place in a bowl with the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, lime zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper. Mix well, cover with a plate and refrigerate.
Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl with the sliced spring onion, lime juice, a quarter teaspoon of salt and a good pinch of pepper.
Cut the stem and 5mm flesh from the top of each pepper to make caps. Carefully scrape away the seeds and pith with a teaspoon without tearing the pulp. Use the same spoon to fill each bell pepper three-quarters full with the cream cheese mixture, replace the lid and secure with two toothpicks.
Turn the heat back to high under the broiler pan and, when very hot, sear the peppers, turning frequently, for 10 to 12 minutes, until evenly charred throughout, remove and set aside to cool. Place the intact lime, half-flecked down, on the hot grill, roast for two to three minutes, until nicely blackened, then transfer to a small plate.
Arrange the peppers on a platter, remove the toothpicks and spoon the dressing over them. Squeeze over the charred lime, sprinkle over a quarter teaspoon of salt flakes and serve warm.
Roasted leek with beetroot tahini and hazelnut salsa
This very dramatic looking dish can be cooked on a barbecue or in a hot oven (if the former, start on the hottest part of the barbecue and move to a cooler spot to continue cooking). These amounts will make more tahini than you need for this dish – store the excess in a sealed container in the fridge for up to three days, to sprinkle over grilled meats or vegetables.
Preparation 5 minutes
Cook 35 minutes
Serves 4 as a starter
4 leeksall of similar size and about 3cm in diameter, trimmed only, white and light green parts
For the salsa
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp coriander seeds
100 ml olive oil
75 g blanched hazelnutsroasted and roughly crushed in a mortar
1 lemonpeel finely grated, to get 1½ tsp, then squeezed, to get 2 tsp
2 red peppershalved lengthwise and thinly sliced (remove and discard the seeds and pith if you want less heat)
30 g parsley leavescoarsely chopped
Flakes of sea salt and black pepper
For the beetroot tahini
90 g ready-to-eat beetrootcut into 1 cm pieces
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
75 g tahini
Heat the grill to high and place an oven rack on the top shelf. Place the leeks 5 cm apart on the oven rack and slide a large baking dish underneath to collect any cooking liquid. Grill for 20 minutes, turning two or three times as needed, until completely blackened. Turn the grill to medium and cook the leeks for another 15 minutes, turning once, until completely charred and tender.
Meanwhile, make the salsa. In a small dry skillet over medium heat, toast the cumin and coriander for three or four minutes until fragrant, then remove from heat, add olive oil and let cool. Place all other salsa ingredients in a medium bowl and, once cool, stir in the seasoned oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Now for the beetroot tahini. In a blender or small food processor, grind the beetroot, lemon juice, vinegar and 50 ml water, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the tahini and a quarter teaspoon of salt, grind again until silky smooth and scrape into a bowl.
When the leeks are ready, place them on a board and cut them lengthwise to open them up; do not cut all the way through. Sprinkle the insides with a generous pinch of salt flakes and place the leeks on a platter. Fill the insides with half of the salsa and a good pinch of pepper and spoon over a generous amount of tahini. Spoon the remaining salsa on top and serve immediately with more tahini.