This beautiful black platter was made by my uncle, master potter David Walters of Franschhoek.I'm not usually tempted by food gimmickry, but this suggestion put a sparkle in my heart and sent me racing to the kitchen. Well, to be accurate, it sent me racing to the supermarket, where I found red, yellow and green peppers (in season now) heaped in glorious shining piles.
I met the man who was to become my husband when I was fifteen, the year before I matriculated in 1979, and Bob Marley's music is so deeply entwined in our friendship (and subsequent courtship) that I could write several chapters on the subject. I won't bore you; suffice to say that 'Redemption Song' is very dear to my heart, and still raises the hairs on my arms whenever I hear it. As it does, I guess, to many people of our generation.
And, besides, 'redemption' is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful words in the English language. It rolls like warm butter from my lips, and is so suffused with goodness, mercy and sunshine that just saying it fills me with the warmest ole feelings.
I hope this recipe will fill your tummy with warm feelings. I've refined it somewhat by dressing each 'stripe' of pepper with its own flavoured vinaigrette. If you don't have time to footle about, omit the flavourings that are stuffed into the peppers before they're baked, and use the basic vinaigrette to dress all three stripes.
This salad needs to be made and dressed a few hours in advance, so that the flavours have a chance to mingle. This is quite a large quantity, suitable for feeding a crowd, but the recipe is easily halved.
Serve the salad with plenty of fresh crusty bread (or slices of toasted ciabatta bread). It's good on its own, but even better with a selection of cool Mediterranean toppings: ricotta, feta, mozzarella or goats' milk cheese, brined capers, bottled anchovies, salty little olives, basil pesto, and so on.
4 large red peppers [bell peppers]
4 large yellow peppers
4 large green peppers
4 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled
4 small sprigs of fresh rosemary
a large bunch of fresh basil
For the three dressings:
2 T (30 ml) white wine vinegar
6 T (90 ml) extra virgin olive oil
a clove of fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
a small sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped
10 fresh basil leaves
fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Cut a 4-cm vertical slit in the side of each pepper. Push a whole clove of peeled garlic through the slit of each red pepper. Push a large sprig of fresh basil into each green pepper, and a sprig of fresh rosemary into each of the yellow peppers.
Put the green peppers into a big, deep roasting pan, place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. (These need to bake for longer than the red and yellow peppers). Remove the pan from the oven and arrange the red and yellow peppers, stalk-side up, in the pan. Bake for an hour, or until the peppers have just collapsed, and are lightly browned and blistered. Turn the peppers now and then to help them cook evenly.
Remove the pan from the oven and cover with tin foil, clingwrap or a lid. Set aside and allow the peppers to cool to room temperature.
Uncover the pan and, using your fingers, remove the stalks, cores and seeds of the peppers, allowing the juices that have pooled inside the peppers to run back into the roasting pan. Discard the rosemary and basil sprigs, but retrieve the four garlic cloves that were inside the red peppers, and set aside.
Peel the skins off the peppers and discard. (You will find that the green peppers, being the least ripe, are quite difficult to peel; remove as much of the skin as you can, and leave the rest on.)
Place the flesh of the peppers, in three separate piles, in a large colander set over the sink, and drain for a few minutes.
Slice the pieces of pepper into little ribbons (or leave them in big leaves, if you like), and arrange them in stripes on a big salad platter: green at the top, yellow in the middle, and red on the bottom.
Now make the dressing. Strain the juices left in the pan, and measure out 4 tablespoons (60 ml) of this liquid. Place in a clean bowl and whisk in the vinegar and olive oil. Mash the four baked garlic cloves you set aside earlier, and stir them into the dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Now divide this basic vinaigrette into three small bowls (each bowl will contain 3 tablespoons of dressing). To the first bowl, add the crushed fresh garlic clove. Pulverise the fresh rosemary spring using a mortar and pestle (or a rolling pin), and stir this paste into the second bowl. Do the same with the fresh basil leaves, and stir the paste into the third dressing. Add a few drops of fresh lemon juice to each of the three dressings, and check the seasoning.
Drizzle the garlic dressing over the red peppers, the rosemary dressing over the yellow peppers, and the basil dressing over the green peppers.
Serve at room temperature.
Serves 12, as a snack or starter