There are many types of hot peppers, varying in shape, flavour and provenance. In certain parts of the world, independently of climate, this vegetable is a key part of the local cuisine, whereas in Italy it is used regularly only in the central and southern regions. It takes a special touch to choose the variety and quantity: chili pepper should never cover the flavour of the food, but blend in and enhance the other ingredients. Its strong and pungent taste comes from capsaicin, a potent alkaloid that stimulates salivation and the digestive tract.
STUFFED TOMATOES (Serves 4)8 tomatoes (not too ripe)
220 g (7.8 oz) mixed cereals (quinoa, brown rice and barley)
1 chili pepper
1 red bell pepper
6 anchovy fillets
1 spring onion
juice of half a lemon
1 sprig parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Boil the cereals separately, drain and place together in a bowl. Chop the parsley and anchovies, and add them to the cereals. Stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, the oregano, and a little salt and pepper. Chop the spring onion and the chili pepper, and start sautéing them in a little oil. Chop the bell pepper and add. Season with salt to taste and cook for 3 minutes. Add the vegetables to the bowl with the cereals and stir well. Rinse the tomatoes, slice off the top and set it aside. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds. Set them cut side down on paper towels to drain off any excess liquid. Turn the oven on to 360°F. Stuff the tomatoes with the cereal mixture, cover with the reserved tomato top and place them in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes.
BAKED BABY EGGPLANTS (Serves 4)400 g (14 oz) baby eggplants
1 chili pepper
1 small piece grated ginger
1 sprig parsley and mint
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp brown sugar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil salt
Preheat the oven to 360°F. In a bowl, whisk the oil with the lime juice, sugar, chopped chili pepper, grated ginger, and part of the chopped parsley and mint. Rinse the eggplants and cut them lengthwise. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and place the eggplants in it. Drizzle with the aromatic oil and stir, making sure the eggplants are evenly coated. Season with salt to taste and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
Serve at room temperature, sprinkling the remaining parsley and mint on top.
FROZEN RICOTTA WiTH MANGO COMPOTE (Serves 4)500 g (17.5 oz) Piedmont ricotta 1 ripe mango
1 piece chopped chili pepper juice of 1 lime
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp honey or maple syrup 50 g (3/8 cup) confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
In a bowl, using a wooden spoon beat the ricotta with the confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest until soft and fluffy. Freeze for two hours. Peel the mango and remove the pit; reserve one slice and dice it. Put the remaining mango in the mixing beaker of an immersion blender with the chili pepper, honey or maple syrup, and lime juice. Blend until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add a few drops of sweet wine. Stir in the diced mango and refrigerate the sauce for a few minutes. Serve the ricotta as if it were ice cream, topping it with the mango compote.