Every now and then I stumble upon a recipe that quite literally stops me in my tracks. It can happen anytime, anywhere, with any type of food, but it's not often that a combination of just two ingredients blows my mind. But there is something about zippy little Peppadews — yep, the ones you find in the your grocer's salad bar — that always keep me coming back from more. When you add a melty cheese to the mix and throw 'em on the grill? Better hold me back!
I discovered grilled Peppadews about five ago and they've been in my summer appetizer rotation ever since. If you haven't tried them yet, it's high time to jump on the wagon. Peppadews might be considered a new kid on the (food) block, considering they only turned up in the United States in 2002, but the bite-sized, bright red peppers have been gaining momentum like wild fire in the past few years.
Discovered in South Africa in 1993, the once obscure, oddly-named fruit manages to satisfy every possible craving in just one bite: they are tangy, tart, saccharine, and savory — a symphony of contradictions as they dance across your tongue. The Peppadew's secret, quite literally, is a hush hush recipe for it's sugar and vinegar brine. The sweet yet peppery flavors in the brine balance perfectly with the peppers' subtle crunch.
Peppadews are ideal for impromptu entertaining. With a shelf life of 24 months (yes, two years!), they can hang in your refrigerator, always ready at a moment's notice. They pair with any cheese under the sun, so you can always have an easy appetizer ready to go. I like to mix the ingredients up, sometimes using a soft cheese like goat, Boursin, or queso fresco. This time around I tucked in little cubes of smoked mozzarella, which added just the right amount of char-grilled heat.
Stuff these addictive poppers in advance and cook them right before guests arrive. (They only take a minute or two!) They are delicious fresh off the grill but just as good at room temperature. My only caveat: make more than you think you need. They have tendency to disappear.
Grilled Peppadews with Smoked Mozzarella
Serves 4 to 6 (can be easily doubled or tripled; allow 3 to 4 per person)
Neutral cooking oil, for the grill
24 Peppadew peppers
3 ounces smoked mozzarella or gouda cheese, cut into small cubes (See Notes)
Place a cast iron skillet directly on the grill grates, cover, and preheat on medium-high. (Alternately, heat a grill pan over the stovetop on medium-high heat.) Brush pan with cooking oil.
When the skillet is piping hot, use long kitchen tongs to add the stuffed peppers to the pan. Cook the peppadews, rolling and turning as needed, until the skin is charred and the cheese is melted, about 2 - 3 minutes. (If the cheese is coming out of the top, just use the tongs to gently "squeeze" it back in.)
Serve warm or at room temperature. To reheat, place in a 400°F oven until warmed through.
Almost any type of cheese can be used. Mix room temperature goat cheese, Boursin, feta, or queso fresco with a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt and stuff into the peppadew.
Nealey Dozier is a former wedding planner turned chef, culinary instructor, recipe developer, and food writer. She is based in Atlanta. You can find more of her Southern adventures in eating and entertaining at www.dixiecaviar.com.
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