I've made this appetizer a million times, but I never get tired of it. The spicy smokiness of the Piquillos is a fantastic foil for the creaminess of the goat cheese. Because they arrive already roasted and peeled, the Piquillos are exceptionally easy to work with.

Piquillo peppers grow only in Navarre in the north of Spain, in the mountainous area along the French border. They're small - about two inches long - and triangular. The freshly picked peppers are grilled over beech-wood fires to char their thin red skin, which gives them a sweet woodsy flavor. Then they're peeled by hand without being rinsed, which would deprive them of much of their flavor.

The Spanish savor Piquillos so much that they've regulated the use of the name by getting a Denomination of Origin. Look for it on the jar; pretenders are starting to show up on store shelves, and there really is a difference.


Ingredients

  • 2 jars (12 ounces each) Spanish Piquillo peppers (see note above), drained
  • 1 5-ounce round fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Catalan
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Coarse sea salt to taste
  • Coarsely ground black pepper to taste


Instructions

1. With your fingers, gently open the stem end of one of the peppers, being careful not to poke through the flesh. With a small spoon or your fingers, carefully stuff about 1/2 teaspoon goat cheese inside. It should fill the pepper's cavity but should not be falling out. Continue until all the peppers have been filled.

2. Preheat the broiler to high.

3. Arrange the peppers in a single layer in a broiler-proof glass baking dish. Pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over them. Sprinkle the garlic over the peppers. Broil for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is soft and bubbly.

Adapted from Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating by Ari Weinzweig (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003). Copyright 2003 by Ari Weinzweig.