Blistered Smoky Peppers from ‘Indian Cooking Unfolded’ by Raghavan Iyer
Simla Mirch aur Suva
What I admire in this combination of ingredients is the inclusion of three members of the capsicum family—bell peppers, dried cayenne chiles, and fresh serrano chiles—to create a depth of fl avor that ranges from hot to smoky to sweet.
Fresh dill, often used like greens, is a typical herb in the Sindhi community of northwestern India near the Pakistan-India border. The dill lends not only color but a grassy, earthy texture to the mix of peppers.
I recommend serving this as a side dish with the Buttermilk Fried Chicken (page 172) for a balance of color, nutrition, and taste.
Makes 4 cups; serves 4
1 pound assorted bell peppers, green, red,
orange, yellow, purple—your pick
2 fresh green serrano chiles, stems discarded
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 dried red cayenne chiles (like chile de árbol),
2 dried or fresh bay leaves
1⁄4 cup fi nely chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1) Discard the stem from each bell pepper. Slice each pepper in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and ribs (those are the white, slightly spongy parts that look like fl imsy half-opened partitions). Cut each pepper half into squares about 1 inch in size and place them in a medium-size bowl. Thinly slice each of the serrano chiles crosswise and add them to the bell peppers. Do not remove the seeds from the chiles.
2) Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil appears to shimmer, add the dried red chiles and bay leaves. The chiles will blacken almost immediately as you stir them, 15 to 20 seconds. Add the bell peppers and Serrano chiles to the skillet and continue to stirfry. You want the peppers to sear (not stew) and start blistering in spots; you may need to increase the heat to high. This normally takes about 5 minutes. Make sure you have adequate ventilation as you do this lung cleaning step.
3) Turn off the heat and add the dill, salt, cumin, and turmeric, stirring once or twice. The heat from the skillet and its contents will be just enough to cook the ground spices without burning them while the dill will maintain its spritely green brightness.
4) Discard the bay leaves and serve the pepper medley warm. I leave the dried chiles in it for the person at the table who thumps his or her chest with machismo joy at the challenge of munching them.