Thursday, July 12, 2007
Yellow Pepper Coca with Capers
The 711 - 1492 AD Moorish occupation in Spain left some incredible marks on the culture and food of Andalusía. Think of the citrus, saffron, almonds, and rice we now equate with Spanish cuisine, not to mention all the spices: aniseed, cinnamon, and coriander to name but a few. Think of the guitar and the possibility of flamenco its invention created. Or the ancient whitewashed villages of the Alpujarras and Granada’s exquisite Alhambra palace and gardens.
And then there’s sugar. Sugar cane and sugar refining both arrived with the Moors, and it’s fair to credit their occupation with that region’s sweet tooth today. The pastries and sweets of Andalusía are renowned, but the regional preference for sour-sweet flavors is something I enjoy even more.
Coca is one such dish. In its most traditional form, peppers are roasted and stewed with sugar, onions, and Andalusían sherry vinegar before being strewn across a yeast-leavened dough and baked – powdered sugar is dusted over the whole thing before serving. But I like my coca with a scattering of capers to cut through the sweetness, and I skip the powdered sugar – by all means try it if the mood strikes though. Recall how refreshing the indulgently sweet Moroccan mint tea is on a hot day? There really is something about scorching heat and sugar that makes sense.
Yesterday, I used prepared pizza dough from the local pizza place for my coca – it’s been far too hot here for much integrity of any sort – but here’s a link to a dough recipe I like if you’re in the mood. Regardless, coca makes fantastic summer tapas. On your next hot day, sip an ice-cold fino, wine, or beer, sit very still, and leave the conversation to someone else while you eat a tangy, savory-sweet slice of coca.
Photo of the Palacio del Partal at the Alhambra with its famous reflecting pool.
Serves 6 - 8
Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, quartered and sliced very thinly
4 – 6 yellow bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and sliced thinly to make about 2 cups total – feel free to use jarred roasted peppers
3 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
all-purpose flour for dusting
1 portion (about 20 oz.) prepared pizza dough from your local pizza place or supermarket, chilled
2 tsp capers, drained and rinsed
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Coat with a glug of olive oil and add the onion. Sprinkle well with salt and sweat, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent. Add the peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 more minutes.
Sprinkle over the sugar and vinegar, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and allow to bubble gently for 5 - 10 minutes until the cooking liquid is reduced, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, check the seasoning with more salt, and then set the peppers aside while you continue.
Preheat the oven to 450 F and brush a large baking sheet with olive oil. On a floured surface, roll or stretch out your pizza dough until it’s roughly 12” by 15.” Lay out on the baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Arrange the pepper onion mixture on top and sprinkle over the capers.
Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes or until the coca is golden brown. Cool slightly before cutting into rectangles. May be served warm or at room temperature.