Grilling in summer: hardly a new concept. But the grill has a gravitational pull of its own, one that feels stronger than ever this year especially. Why? The grill gives us something to do. The mere transfer of cooking from the kitchen to the outdoors must create some magic we can feel even if we can’t see it. What was a chore becomes an event, a party even, if you pour a drink and put on a playlist.
Grilling has a similar transformational effect on food. Simple executions shine best—like these grilled marinated peppers. Low on effort, sweet mini peppers get quickly charred on a hot grill and tossed in an herb-forward marinade to deliver maximum flavor. The resulting tangle of colorful baby peppers is fragrant and smoky and sweet all at once—and it only takes a few minutes of prep time. Serve them as a side to dress up just about any grilled meat (pork tenderloin, flank steak, or chicken are all particularly nice), or pair with whipped ricotta and crusty bread as an appetizer if you want to extend the happiest hour around the grill a little longer.
Tamar Adler says that if you don’t know what to cook, put a pot of water on to boil. In summer, I think her advice applies equally to the grill: if cooking feels wearisome, if your ingredients feel uninspired, if you’re sick of your house . . . light the grill. For centuries, fire has given us a reason to gather—and some things never change.
Grilled Marinated Peppers with Whipped Ricotta
1 lb. sweet mini peppers
½ cup olive oil
4 Tbs. red wine vinegar
½ cup fresh torn basil leaves, plus more for garnish
2 Tbs. fresh oregano leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups whole-milk ricotta
Kosher salt and black pepper
1. Prepare a grill for high heat (450ºF–500ºF). Meanwhile, halve peppers lengthwise and scrape out seeds and ribs (no need to remove the stems).
2. In a large bowl, toss peppers with 2 Tbs. of olive oil until well-coated. When grill is hot, transfer peppers to grill grates and grill, turning once, until charred on both sides, about 5–6 minutes total.
3. In the same bowl, whisk remaining 6 Tbs. olive oil, red wine vinegar, fresh basil and oregano, dried oregano, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add grilled peppers to the bowl, stir to coat, and let marinate for ten minutes.
4. Using an electric mixer, whip ricotta cheese until light and airy, 2–3 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, using the back of a spoon to create some swooshes as you spread. Season lightly with salt, and then top ricotta with the grilled peppers and the marinade. Finish with a scattering of fresh basil leaves. Serve with crusty bread.
Photography by Jivan Davé