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I know food should be about flavor and not about color, but since you eat with your eyes first, I tend to a get more colorful with my themed food around the holidays. This appetizer is red and green, but it’s also elegant and refined—perfect for the holidays.
Vegetable caviar is not what it sounds like: no fish eggs here. It’s a kind of deeply flavored spread or dip made from the softened flesh of vegetables, usually nightshades. I most commonly pick up a tub of caviar d’aubergines (eggplant caviar) at the Monoprix in Paris and eat it with a baguette in the park. But two summers ago when passing through Antibes, I had a sweet red pepper version stuffed into mushroom caps, served with champagne. It’s colorful, garlicky, sweet, and a touch spicy.
For this festive appetizer I hollow the chokes out of chilled artichokes and fill them with caviar de poivrons (red bell pepper caviar) zested up with lemon, garlic, and piment d’espelette. The artichoke makes a natural bowl to hold the dip as you pluck leaves from around the heart and dunk them, along with some crusty baguette, into the center. It’s an easy appetizer with a great presentation that can be made ahead. What could be better for a holiday dinner?
- 4 artichokes, trimmed
- Fine sea salt
- 5 red bell peppers (about 2 1/4 pounds)
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons 2% Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon piment d’Espelette
- Place oven rack 6 inches below broiler. Preheat broiler.
- Place artichokes in large stockpot and submerge in enough water to cover by 2 inches. Salt water. Cover pot, and bring to boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 45 minutes, turning occasionally, until artichoke stems are tender, and leaves are easily removed from artichoke. Place artichokes upside down in a colander placed over a bowl, and refrigerate until completely chilled.
- Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place bell peppers on baking sheet, and broil for 30 minutes, turning once every 8 to 10 minutes. Once peppers are roasted, place in large glass bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Cool to room temperature. Once cool, remove skins and seeds. Pat roasted pepper flesh dry on paper towels.
- Place roasted peppers and remaining ingredients in the food processor, and buzz to a smooth consistency. Cover, and refrigerate.
- Cut each chilled artichoke in half lengthwise. Remove very inner leaves and choke with a teaspoon. Fill cavity with chilled red pepper caviar. Repeat for all remaining artichoke halves. Serve immediately with fresh baguette.
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