Roasted Basque Peppers

The Treasure Valley region where I live in Idaho along the Oregon boarder has a very close-knit, active Basque community. Nearby Boise has one of the largest Basque populations outside of Spain. The Basques are the oldest living ethnic group on the European continent, yet have never managed to have a country of their own. Yet they have survived as a culture and incorporating that rich history of traditions into this area has made us more diverse, interesting, and valuable, I believe.

But this is a post about peppers. This is hearsay, but I understand that local farmers grow these peppers from seeds that were brought here specifically from the Basque region. I had them for the first time at one of my favorite restaurants, Epi’s. They are served whole and fried as a side dish to anything you order. They are unlike any other peppers I’ve had before and luckily, most peppers grow beautifully in our Idaho sun.

These particular peppers originated from the Basque region of Spain. I believe these are Gernika peppers. Gernika is a Spanish pepper that is long and without any heat. It is often served fried or stuffed with cheese or other fillings. Served on a plate all their own, pimientos de Gernika are typically fried in olive oil with garlic until they’re shriveled and slightly browned. Slightly bitter, these peppers are great with steak or on their own as a ración (small plate), eaten with a cold beer.

I found this recipe of sorts from the local independent paper’s website and was intrigued by the idea of roasting the peppers whole instead of frying them. So, with my weekly big vegetable roast, I did a pan of the Gernika peppers, sprinkled only with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. They roasted, uncovered, for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Sprinkled with salt, they were served with dinner that night. Afterwards, I removed the stems and seeds and chopped them up for easy use through the week. I’ve especially loved them with my eggs in the morning. Mmm!


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