Mediterranean Hors d'Oeuvre Platter
An attractive hors d’oeurve platter made with peeled sliced green and red peppers in oil and garlic, anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and Syrian string cheese.
2 or 3 medium green bell peppers
2 or 3 medium red bell peppers (and/or yellow peppers)
freshly ground pepper
2 or 3 cloves garlic
1/2 pounds Syrian (or Armenian) string cheese
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 can anchovies packed in olive oil
1 handful small black olives (more or less)
· Place the peppers on a piece of foil in a broiling pan and place them so their surface is 2 inches (5 cm) from a red-hot broiler element. When skins have puffed and darkened on one exposed side -- in 2 to 3 minutes -- turn with tongs onto another side, and continue until peppers have puffed and darkened all over.
· Immediately, while the peppers are still warm, cut one of the peppers in half and drain its juice into a bowl. Scrape seeds from insides, and cut the pepper into finger-width strips -- for easier peeling. Then pull off the skin, which should come off easily if the pepper is sufficiently puffed and darkened.
· Cut the peeled strips in half and place them in the bowl with the juice. Rapidly continue with the rest of the peppers.
Oil and garlic sauce:
· Place 1/2 teaspoon or so of salt in a small mortar or bowl, and puree into it the garlic. Mash with a pestle or the end of a wooden spoon to make a perfectly smooth paste, then whisk in several tablespoons of oil. If the pepper slices are swimming in too much of their juice, pour some of it out, then fold the peppers together with the garlic and oil.
· Peppers may be sauced several days in advance of serving and kept covered in the refrigerator. Be sure to let them come to room temperature (to de-coagulate the oil) before serving.
The string cheese:
· Syrian string cheese typically comes in a tightly twisted 1-pound (450-gram) hank. Untwist it and cut as many pieces of it as you think you will need into 8-inch (20-cm) lengths -- one-third to one-half the package.
· Pull strands of cheese down the length of each piece. It’s picky work, but well worth the effort.
· Taste several strands, and if the cheese seems too salty, rinse it in a sieve under cold running water. Drain well, and toss in paper towels to dry.
· Before serving, you may wish to toss the cheese in a bowl with olive oil and freshly ground pepper.
· Cheese may be strung, but not sauced, in advance. Wrap the stings of cheese loosely in slightly dampened paper towels, and refrigerate in a plastic bag. It will keep nicely for a day or two at least.
Assembling the platter:
· One idea for assembling the platter is shown in the photograph, with one side for red peppers and the other for green; wedges of egg at the two ends, anchovies over peppers, cheese in the middle, and olives (rolled in olive oil) at the sides.
The platter may be assembled several hours in advance – except for the anchovies, which may go off in taste if opened more than a few minutes before serving. Cover the assembled platter closely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Be sure to let it come to room temperature before serving so that olive oil will liquefy.
Yield: For 6 people