“I have something to tell you. It’s not great.”
Dana was commuting home from work when I texted her. I was ankle deep in water in her bedroom, which occupied the basement of the house we shared. Her clothes floated around me, spinning leisurely in the standing water. She wasn’t going to be happy.
My phone clicked as I typed slowly: “Your bedroom has some water in it. I think it flooded.”
Megan, another roommate, stood on the stairs staring into the basement. Austin, our final roommate, stood next to me in the water. We waited for Dana to respond, watching the … roll across the screen.
We called our landlord, who helpfully shouted at me: “What you want me to do?”
“Well, it’s flooded, so if you could remove the water and call someone, that might help,” I said.
Henry didn’t speak much English, so I don’t think he understood what I meant. I hung up and started to collect Dana’s clothes, shoes, and electronics, carrying them upstairs in a wet heap. She showed up an hour later and I immediately handed her a beer. When Henry and his wife showed up the next day to sweep the water out of the basement with a broom, it was almost comical.
We lived in that house for a year and while I wish I could tell you that the flooding was an isolated incident, that would be a lie. I’ve never lived in a place with more problems: ice dams cracking the windows in the winter, bathroom ceilings leaking and eventually falling in, mice, bugs, mold, gas leaks, construction, and more. It was a mess.
There were a few upsides to that house, though. Mostly, I learned a lot about cooking from my roommate Austin, who uses lots of spices, vinegars and salt. When I was living with him, I learned to make two things I still make now: quick pickled cucumbers and roasted red peppers. I also learned to actually use salt, which was a big deal.
So Austin, this gloriously salted, deeply charred recipe is for you. Thanks for the inspiration!
Roasted Red Pepper Feta Spread
Makes about 4 cups. Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.
- 4 red bell peppers
- 1 tablespoon, plus 1/4 cup olive oil
- ½ medium shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounces Greek feta (chopped coarsely)
- 3 teaspoons dried thyme (or fresh, if you have it)
- Pita chips
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Place the bell peppers on a baking sheet and drizzle them with 1 T olive. Roll them around to fully coat in oil before putting them in the oven for 60–75 minutes, until collapsed and very tender. Turn them every 15 minutes, or so, for even roasting.
Meanwhile, whisk the shallot, garlic, red wine vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil in a small bowl to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Once the peppers are out of the oven and you’ve let them cool a bit, remove the stems, skins and seeds. Finely chop the pepper flesh and transfer it to a medium bowl. Whisk the dressing to reincorporate it and pour it over peppers, then add the feta and thyme to the bowl, too, stirring all of the components carefully to combine.
This dip can be made up to 2 days before you need to serve it (stored in the fridge). It’s best after about an hour in the fridge, though, once the flavors have combined a bit more. When it’s time for the party, simply top the dip with a sprinkle of additional thyme and serve with pita chips.