Roasted red bell peppers, either homemade or from a jar, make for a versatile ingredient when preparing all sorts of dishes. They're particularly handy for hors d'oeuvres, those cocktail hour requirements. They're flavorful enough to satisfy after a single bite and elegant enough to serve at your fanciest affair. Plus, their ruby-red color is strikingly appetizing.
Bruschetta and Crostini
Whether you call these crostini or bruschetta depends on your definition -- generally, crostini are smaller but the words can be used interchangeably. Top toasted slices of baguette with thinly sliced or finely chopped roasted bell peppers for an instant appetizer. You can also add a dab of ricotta or goat cheese. For a meaty version, add thinly sliced flank steak or an aged ham, such as prosciutto or serrano, instead of or with the cheese.
You can skip the bread and roll up a wide strip of roasted red pepper and a slice of salami together; secure it with a toothpick and serve. Prosciutto, serrano or a similar ham can stand in for the salami, as can other deli meats. You can also stuff the roll with a chunk of hard cheese such as manchego or a smear of a softer cheese such as chevre.
Peppers and Eggs
Roasted peppers and eggs are paired with each other in a number of iconic dishes around the world -- Basque peperonata being one example, Israeli shakshuka another. Take that principle and fill mini-quiche cups with roasted red peppers and custardy eggs. You can also serve small cubes of frittata filled with sliced roasted red peppers as hors d'oeuvres.
Muhammara is a Middle Eastern dip blended from walnuts, pomegranate molasses and roasted red bell peppers. You may use it as either a dip or a spread. Hummus blended with pureed roasted red peppers is a common variation on this familiar dip. You can also blend red pepper puree into mayonnaise for a red pepper aioli dip. Romesco, made from almonds, tomatoes and roasted peppers blended together, is usually treated as a sauce but can be used as a dip as well. Serve any of these dips with pita chips, breadsticks, crackers or raw sliced vegetables.
Banderillas is the Spanish term for bite-sized skewers of food meant to be served with drinks. The variations are endless. Try skewering a canned anchovy, a square of roasted bell pepper and a chunk of pickle. Or try roasted bell pepper plus a cube of manchego and an olive. Another version includes roasted pepper plus a cocktail onion and a chunk of Spanish-style dry chorizo sausage. You can also use roasted pepper, jarred artichoke heart and a chunk of high-quality canned tuna.