I was an au pair in the suburb of London - in Barnes to be exact - during the Summer of 1998. Barnes is a charming little community along the river - and I fell in love with it. There's a beautiful little park with a pond and weeping willows, quaint little shops and pubs, beautiful houses and wonderful people, to name just a few things.
That 1998 summer was the beginning of a long story between me and Barnes. I came back to it in 2002 and worked there as a barista in the now closed French coffee shop Tatie Danielle, while I finished my studies.
Back then, I worked for a family who had two young boys. They lived in a really lovely semi-attached home, with a very picturesque British garden. I loved it! The green lawn, the shrubs, the roses, the little shed in the back, and me lounging in the shade of the trees with my best friend Lucie.
The mother of that family prepared food in its most simple way. I realized recently, while remembering the good old times, how much this fragment of my life reinforced the way I see food today: keep it basic and always use quality ingredients.
As much as French home cooking is indeed quite simple, we tend to overcomplicate things sometimes and forget how to make an ingredient the star of a dish, without much addition of flavor but rather complement it.
I remember one Sunday afternoon, when I was served this roasted bell pepper salad. It was lukewarm, sweet and accompanied with fresh mozzarella, basil and the finest olive oil. The ingredients, absolutely fresh and top quality, melted in my mouth.
I recreated this recipe just before Noah was born, when our friends Ceci and Meredith came over for dinner. And it was just right. I suggest serving it with a fresh loaf of bread, like a pain de campagne.
Roasted Bell Pepper, Basil & Mozzarella Salad (serves 4 to 6)
3 bell peppers, the color of your choice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 ball of extra fresh Mozzarella
1 bunch of fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 500 F degrees. Cut the bell peppers in half, remove the seeds and the membranes. Place them in a bowl and coat them with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the bell peppers to the bowl you priorly used, cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes, allowing the bell peppers to steam.
With a small knife, or using your fingers, peel the skin off the bell peppers. Slice lengthwise - the longer the slices, the better, for visual effect. Place in a serving dish.
Right before serving, slice the basil thinly, tear the mozzarella cheese into small bits using your fingers and add to the roasted bell peppers.
Check the seasoning and add sea salt if you choose to. You may also drizzle some extra olive oil over the top. Serve right away, at room temperature. Do not place in the fridge.
Best if served the same day.