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Zucchini with Roasted Red Peppers and Chives

True balsamic vinegar, made in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna from white Trebbiano grapes, is aged in a series of barrels made of different woods for at least 12 years and sometimes much longer. Only then can it be designated aceto balsamico tradizionale. Because of its deep flavor, long-aged true balsamic vinegar is used sparingly as a condiment on finished dishes, as in this recipe. Lesser-aged true balsamic vinegars or high-quality supermarket balsamics are more widely available and are suitable for cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped (optional)
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. chopped fresh chives
  • 5 to 8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of sugar (if boiling zucchini)
  • 4 young, tender zucchini, about 1 lb. total,
      diced or cut into bite-size pieces

Directions:

Preheat a broiler.

Put the bell peppers on a baking sheet and broil, turning as needed, until blistered and charred on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, using tongs or a large fork, hold the peppers, one at a time, over the flame of a gas burner and turn as needed until evenly blistered and charred. Transfer the blackened peppers to a brown paper bag and seal loosely, or place in a bowl and cover. Let cool to the touch. Remove the peppers and peel away the charred skin. Slit lengthwise and remove and discard the stems and seeds.

Finely chop the peppers and put in a serving bowl. Add the garlic, chives and basil to taste, and the olive oil. Season with vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Add pinches of salt and sugar and the zucchini and boil rapidly until the zucchini is tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain the zucchini well. Alternatively, bring water to a boil in a steamer pan, put the zucchini in a steamer rack over the water, cover and steam until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the zucchini from the rack.

Add the zucchini to the bell pepper mixture and toss well. Serve immediately.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Vegetable, by Marlena Spieler (Simon & Schuster, 2002).