James Walt, executive chef at Araxi Restaurant + Oyster Bar/Il Caminetto in Whistler, is famed for the huge long-table dinner he serves out in the field at North Arm Farm each August. He shares this recipe for peperonata from his new book Araxi: Roots to Shoots. It’s a colourful starter of shallots and bell peppers that he says “keeps well for three to four days and actually tastes better the day after it is prepared.”
“Nothing says summer to me like this dish,” he says.
Serve it with some good crusty bread and a quality buffalo mozzarella, like the version from Natural Pastures in Courtenay, made with milk from Vancouver Island water buffalo.
• 1/3 cup + 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
• 6 shallots, thinly sliced
• 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 3 large bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow, 1 orange), seeds removed, thinly sliced
• 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
• 1/4 cup raisins, soaked in warm water until plump, then strained
• 2 tbsp granulated sugar
• Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
• 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
• 10 mint leaves, very thinly sliced
• 5 balls buffalo mozzarella, each 4 to 5 oz, cut into quarters
• 2 tbsp balsamic crema or balsamic vinegar
• 2 sprigs fresh mint, for garnish
Heat the 1/3 cup olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the peppers and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes, then add the vinegar, raisins and sugar. Cook until the vinegar has evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Once the peperonata has cooled, fold in the pine nuts and mint. Mix thoroughly and check the seasoning. Arrange the peperonata on a serving platter.
Place the buffalo mozzarella on the peppers, drizzle with the 3 tablespoons olive oil and the balsamic crema (or balsamic vinegar), and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with some fresh mint leaves and serve.
Serves 4 to 6 as part of an appetizer platter.