If you’re like me, sometimes there isn’t time to think about really fancy appetizers when you’re having guests over because you’re so focused on the main event, (the actual dinner) and, of course, the dessert, which most guests really look forward to when they’re invited to your house and don’t have to cook a thing. It can be a lot to orchestrate and these days no one really ever expects appetizers anyway, but you can be different because this, my friends, is super easy. So easy, in fact, you’ll make it for yourself and your family even when you don’t have dinner guests coming. Maybe not just as an appetizer, but as a snack or even an open lunch sandwich for yourself. Anyway, it’s pretty versatile, so you can see where I’m going with this…
Pulling from my Sicilian side of my heritage, one of the first dishes I ever tasted when I went to Sicily was a simple Roasted Pepper Salad, made by my uncle from fresh, local and always normally organic red and green peppers. If other colors were available, they would go in, as well. So, in the summertime, that’s what I use; in the wintertime, I use a jar of peppers but I don’t like the vinegar-y taste so I tend to rinse that off. They must be nicely roasted for me to buy them, however, because that’s the whole point of this recipe and that’s what makes them taste so good. Otherwise, forget it, it’s just not the same dish at all.
In my first cookbook, Summer Ramadan Cooking, I included the recipe for just the salad- and for many reasons. First and foremost because I make this all the time myself; and second, I also serve it to guests who seem to really love it. Most home cooks can access peppers, olives, capers, garlic, olive oil, lemon, and parsley- the ingredients in it, so that makes it a plus for suggesting it.
Dinner appetizers on toast can be cut into smaller pieces but if you have a really hungry crowd or want a quick way to pull an appetizer dish together try this: toasted rustic bread 🥖 with slices of fresh mozzarella and put a generous amount of Sicilian roasted pepper salad on top (roasted peppers, garlic, capers, olives, EVOO, salt and lemon 🍋 juice). Super quick and easy, yet all natural, homemade and healthy, too. For the full recipe of the pepper salad, you can get it in my Summer Ramadan Cooking cookbook or sign up for my Flavors of Sicily cooking classes,coming soon to my Chicago area location. Sign up to my newsletter for updates: www.myhalalkitchen.com/subscribe
In this particular recipe that I recently posted a photo on Instagram (seen above) which showed me making it as an appetizer on toast with mozzarella. Essentially this ‘salad’ is part of the mezze (appetizer) table at a Sicilian lunch, but I was looking for a new way to eat it, something a little heartier because I had no time to make anything heartier for myself that day. What I always have on hand, however, is some rustic sourdough bread and fresh mozzarella. That works for me. Toast the bread, add the mozza, which essentially melts on the hot toast and then add the prepared salad on top. Bellisimo!
If you were serving this as an appetizer, you could gut the bread in half or in fours to make it even smaller and do the same thing; or do the really rustic way and serve single pieces- one per person will have them satisfied for a good long while.
See? Versatile: 1) an open sandwich; 2) small appetizers; 3) large appetizers; 4) just eat the salad.
What do you think? Will you make this? How will you serve it up?
- 1-16 ounce jar roasted bell peppers (or 4 freshly roasted)- any color, cut into horizontal strips and cut in half again
- 3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or to taste + more for drizzling
- Juice of half lemon
- Sea salt
- Rustic bread, cut into thin slices
- Fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices (about 1 cup)
- Fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- In a medium-size bowl, combine the peppers, garlic, olives and capers. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Give it a stir and set aside (you can even do this overnight).
- Prepare the bread by toasting just so it's crunchy but not too hard (otherwise it falls apart all over the place). At this point you can either leave the bread in whole pieces or cut into squares or cut in half, depending on how you want to serve this dish.
- As soon as the bread has been toasted and is still warm, add the mozzarella slices, then spoon out a generous amount of the salad on top. Drizzle with olive oil and a few sprinkels of fresh parsley leaves. Ready to serve!