Step 1: Get your hands on a fresh red pepper
I bought a $1 red pepper at the Oak Park Farmers’ Market recently, picking it up only because it was this beautiful shade of red and, frankly, seemed to be calling my name, all shiny and fragrant. Before I knew what I was doing, I was walking away from the tent with it, thinking I could figure the rest (as in, what to do with it) out later. (This, apparently, is my thing, the way yours might be that you’re always on time or never forget a birthday. I am the girl who can’t plan ahead, who buys and then thinks, who starts recipes late at night before reading the entire directions.)
Step 2: Roast the pepper
A few days after buying the one red pepper, I’d used a fourth of it, along with a fourth of a green pepper, in an impromptu scrabbled eggs(ish) medley, which I ate but you probably wouldn’t—trust me—and every time I opened the fridge, the remaining 3/4 of the peppers taunted me. So something had to be done.
2a: Put the pepper on a cookie sheet and place in the oven at 375 degrees.
Wash the peppers before placing them on the sheet, and leave on their stems—they’ll help with handling later. You will notice, from the photo, that I did this with both the green and red peppers. Let’s just say one was more cooperative than the other.
2b: Cook peppers for about an hour, rotating them every 20 minutes or so.
This is my favorite part, because the peppers fill your kitchen with a wonderful, peppery smell that makes your stomach growl. Plus, they wrinkle up like crazy and look like your toes do after being in the bathtub too long. And, I don’t know, I think that’s kind of fun.
2c: Remove the sheet from the oven and enclose the peppers.
There are many ways to do this: place the hot peppers in a bowl that you cover with plastic wrap, stick them in a paper bag that you close up tight or, what I did, use the fresh tin foil that you always line your baking sheets with (less cleaning!) to create a sort of domed enclosure around the peppers. Leave them like this for a little while; the steam will help loosen their skins.
2d: Peel off the skins of the peppers and separate them into thin strips.
After they’ve steamed for a bit, the peppers will be easy to peel (at least my red pepper was). The thin skin comes right off, sometimes in pieces and, best, sometimes in one huge section. Put the soft fleshy strips (removed from all seeds and skin) into a small casserole dish.
Step 3: Eat roasted pepper!
I thought you might like a snack at this juncture in the process (OK, what I mean to say is I did), so here is what you should do: douse the pepper slices in a little olive oil and sea salt and sop them up with toasted bread. YUM. Afterwards, I had about three tablespoons left for the dip recipe.
Step 4: Make the dip
In a medium-sized skillet, heat about a teaspoon of olive oil. Meanwhile, dry and chop up what you have left of red peppers—it should be around three tablespoons, but it’s flexible. Also, chop up a clove of garlic. Add the peppers and garlic to the skillet and heat for around a minute.
Add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and put the skillet on low-medium heat. Leave it be for a little more than 10 minutes.
When the mixture is fairly dry and very soft, pour it from the skillet into a bowl to cool. Add 1/2 cup sour cream, a teaspoon of dried basil (and maybe a bit of sea salt for good measure) and stick it in the refrigerator.
After it’s chilled, serve with pita bread.