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Goat Cheese Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

By Chef John Ash

Piquillo peppers come from the small northern Spanish region of Navarra. The peppers take their name from their distinctive, narrow, triangular shape: Piquillo means “beak” in Spanish.

At first glance, piquillos look like a variant of sweet bell pepper, but just one bite will tell a different story, as the familiar sweetness gives way to a sneaky heat. Navarra’s piquillo peppers are traditionally roasted over a beechwood fire, which adds a delectable smokiness to their bouquet. The final product is then packed whole in its delicious juices, ready to be sliced, stuffed and puréed into a variety of delicious dishes. Russian River Ranches Chardonnay would be a great match with these peppers.

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    Serves 12

    Total Time 1 hour

    Prep Time 15 mins

    Difficulty Level Medium

    Ingredients

    10 ounces fresh herbed goat cheese (stuffed peppers)

    1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest (stuffed pepper)

    12 whole piquillo peppers (stuffed peppers)

    1/3 cup fragrant extra virgin olive oil (stuffed peppers)

    5 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced (stuffed peppers)

    Freshly ground black pepper (stuffed peppers)

    12 caper berries, drained (stuffed peppers)

    3 cups packed herbs, large stems removed (basil oil)

    1-2 cups olive oil (Basil Oil)

    Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground white pepper (Basil Oil)

    Directions

    1. For the Stuffed Piquillo Peppers: Mash the goat cheese in a bowl with the zest. Stuff the whole piquillos three-quarters full with the mixture and place on a rimmed baking sheet.

    2. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan and fry the garlic until lightly golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

    3. Drizzle the peppers with some of the oil and briefly broil in a preheated oven. If cheese oozes out just push it back in.

    4. To serve: Use a spatula to transfer to a platter or individual plates and top with the fried garlic and a grinding or two of pepper. Serve with a caper berry or two, if desired.

    5. For the Leafy herb oils: Blanch the herbs in lightly salted, boiling water for 2 – 3 seconds. Drain and immediately plunge into ice water to stop the cooking and set the color.

    6. Squeeze the herbs dry, chop and add to a blender along with enough oil to generously cover. Blend to make a thick paste.

    7. Strain for an hour or two through a fine mesh strainer. Discard solids, season with salt and pepper and store covered and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

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