Saturday, February 18, 2006

Red Pepper Coulis

You catch a stack out of the corner of your eye. The deep red accented with a crooked green stem beckoning. It fits well in your hand. Perfectly smooth, firm. Sophisticated, despite the fact that bell peppers are the most popular pepper in the US. Rather like finding Ralph Fiennes' photo in People magazine.

Unlike during your high school days, you can be best friends with this popular hottie. (Actually, it's more sweet than hot, since bell peppers lack capsaicin, the "hot" in chili peppers.) How often do you find a sauce that tastes great, adds beautiful color, is easy to make and is very healthy too? And it complements tons of dishes - baked fish, over omelets, as a soup garnish, with quinoa, crab cakes, and well, let me know how you use it.

Many recipes instruct you to peel the peppers. And they might only suggest that you strain the puree. Well, this is very backwards thinking. After all, coulis (vegetable puree) is a French word derived from "strained liquid" which in turn came from Latin, "to strain". When you strain the puree, you not only get a much smoother texture, but then you don't have to do any boring old peeling - yey!

If you use a chinois, you will get the wow factor from your friends - a coulis smoother than velvet. If you don't have one, then use the finest strainer you can borrow. (And if you like Nose to Tail cooking for vegetables too, spread the remaining veggie "offal" on toast and enjoy an exotic bruschetta.)

Red Pepper Coulis
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons minced shallots
3 the most beautiful organic red bell peppers, seeded, deribbed and chopped (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
Makes about 2 cups.
  • Heat olive oil in medium skillet. Add the shallots, cover, but also take care to stir them frequently as they sweat, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the peppers, cover, and cook over medium heat until the peppers are very tender, about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste as they sweat.
  • Deglaze the pan with the wine and let the wine reduce until nearly cooked away, about 6-7 minutes. Add the stock. Simmer until reduced by half, about 15 - 20 minutes.
  • Puree the sauce in a food processor until very smooth. Strain the coulis through a chinois or other fine strainer to get a silky texture.
You can store this for up to 3 days in the fridge. It's even better the next day.

p.s. This red pepper coulis is going in the same dish as the prepared horseradish. Is the suspense building?


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