The Farmers Market Files: Sweet Red Pepper and Tomato Spread

Red Pepper Spread

Red Pepper Spread

Here’s another great way to preserve the farmers market bounty for the sad, dark, monochrome days of winter when there is nary a brightly-colored food item to be found that isn’t from Florida or Mexico. This spread is great on sandwiches, crackers, and pasta, and can be used to dress up soups and stews as well, kind of like a sweet harissa. You might be surprised by how sweet it is, given that it only calls for five ingredients and none of them is a sweetener. Cooking down the red peppers concentrates their flavor, and the combination of this sweetness with the tart tomatoes and pungent garlic produces a perfect end-of-summer flavor medley.

A little bit goes a long way, so I always set aside some to use fresh and put the rest in the freezer for later. The recipe below yields about 2 cups of spread, though this recipe is easily doubled/tripled/etc., if you’d like to freeze it in larger quantities.

(Keep in mind that this recipe really only qualifies for cheapskate status when made at this time of year, when tomatoes and red bell peppers are fresh and abundant, and can often be bought in bulk quantities at farmers markets. Otherwise, you’re looking at a $20+ spread!)

Sweet Red Pepper and Tomato Spread


  • 5 large ripe red bell peppers, or the equivalent
  • 10 large picked-ripe roma tomatoes, or the equivalent
  • 1 head garlic, separated and peeled
  • 4 thin slices olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste


Don't worry too much about precision with the quantities here. The beauty of ingredients that are this delicious is that your end result is going to taste good, no matter what.


1. Roughly chop the peppers, tomatoes, and garlic, and process finely in the food-chopping appliance of your choice. This spread is best with a bit of texture, so try to avoid processing the vegetables into a puree - very small pieces are ideal.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. When hot, add the vegetable mixture.
3. The vegetables will begin to release their liquid and simmer. Cook at a low simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces to ½ to ⅓ of its original volume. (It will thicken to a paste-like consistency once it cools.)
4. Remove from heat, stir in salt, and let cool.


One of my favorite ways to serve this is on a sandwich with avacado, cheese, and a fried egg:

Sandwich with sweet red pepper spread

It is surprisingly hard to take an attractive picture of a sandwich.


Cost of core ingredients:

  • 5 farmers market red peppers, bought bulk: $3?
  • 15 medium farmers market tomatoes, bought bulk: $3?
  • 1 head garlic: ~$1

Total cost: ~$7, plus the cost of small amounts of olive oil and salt.

Bon Appétit!

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