If necessity is the mother of invention, then an inability to sleep is the upstairs neighbour of a busy kitchen.
Which is probably why a caffeine-fuelled evening that led to my inability to sleep, combined with my natural (and I would argue genetic) completionist tendencies, transformed a single-dish potluck offering to a multi-part supper in itself.
It all started when the Toronto panel session I attended ended a tad early. Traffic on the 401 was more than a tad easy. The coffee I had early in the evening kept me more than a tad awake in the-close-to-wee hours.
At home, I did what any normal person would do: I flitted around my kitchen like a hummingbird wired on double espressos, looking for something to do. I didn't feel like baking. Cooking another meal would have been silly as most of the week would have me eat anywhere but home. Alas, it was also too early in the week to prepare my potluck offering.
There I stood, illuminated by the fridge's bulb, pondering its contents. The only thing I could see were bell peppers: the mediumscarymegamart had them on sale so my veggie drawer was full to bursting with oblong orbs.
My potluck muse must have arrived directly from the markets of Tangiers or Marrakesh, sending me into a decidedly Moroccan frame of mind. With North Africa in mind, Claudia Roden's Arabesque offered a solution to my excesses of energy and bell peppers. Her recipe for Felfla Wal Hummas Wa Jban (Roast Peppers and Chickpeas with Fresh Goat's Cheese) was reminiscent of Nigella's roasted pepper and feta starter from Nigella Bites.
Yes, my singular, effortless potluck offering became two relatively effortess potluck offerings. As my Dear Little Cardamummy believes: better to have more food than less.
So there I sat on my kitchen kick stool, at midnight, in front of Beelzebub's window, wearing my white and blue floral printed flannelette granny jammies, occasionally practising culinary voyeurism while reading Nigel Slater's latest tome. I peered into my oven's window as the buckled baking tray encouraged the peppers to rock, roll and wobble in their desert-like heat: their wrinkled and blackened skins spat and oozed boiling juices from blistered gashes. Before my energies dissapated, they were stripped of their char and voided of their seeds, sliced into strips and popped into the fridge to be mixed with chickpeas and their flavourings.
Anyone who didn't know me (and I'm sure those who do) would have thought me mad, I'm sure.
This is easily a pantry dish, especially if you are running late and don't want to roast the peppers yourself and have a favourite jarred offering from your grocer, but you may have to adjust the dressing to make up for the extra sharpness that comes from the vinegar store-bought peppers are packed in.
For a more substantial lunch dish, add chunks of boiled potatoes and perhaps chunks of tinned tuna, with a sprinkling of roughly chopped flat-leafed parsley.
How to roast bell peppers:
Set your oven to its hottest temperature and let it come up to temp. Place whole peppers onto a foil-lined tray and pop into the oven. After 15 minutes, turn the fruit so an unblistered side is foil-down, roast for 10 minutes. Roast remaining sides for 8-10 minutes each.
When done, remove the peppers from the tray and place in a pot with a tight-fitting lid and let steam for about 15 minutes. When the fruit are cool enough to handle, slip off the charred skins from the flesh and remove the stem and seeds.
Roasted pepper, chickpea and feta salad
6 roasted red bell peppers, slivered
1x540ml (8.5oz) tin chickpeas, drained
60ml (0.25c) extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp dried oregano
100g (3.5oz) feta cheese
Make the dressing by combining the oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano.
Mix the pepper ribbons and chickpeas together. Pour the dressing over top and give the contents a light stir.
About 10 minutes before serving, mix in the feta cheese.
I'm a quill for hire!