Smoky, Hot Stuffed Peppers of Macedonia
You might find peppers stuffed with cheese in a taverna in Athens or in other parts of Greece, but this classic meze is associated above all with the region of Macedonia, in the north. Peppers—mild and hot, fresh and dried—are one of the agricultural glories of the region, and the queen of them all is the sweet, firm-fleshed, long red pepper grown around the town of Florina, in the mountains of Macedonia’s far northwest. I ate these stuffed Florina peppers (see Peppers Stuffed with Feta) at Myrovolos Smyrni, an ouzeri, or ouzo bar, in business since the 1950s in the Macedonian city of Thessaloniki. The filling is a whipped feta dip called htipiti, which is spiked with hot chiles; some versions get a tangy boost from fresh lemon juice. It’s a powerful combination of flavors, but then this is food designed as a match for anise-flavored ouzo or the equally potent spirit tsipouro. Htipiti is often served with pita for dipping, but in this case it’s stuffed inside the split Florina peppers, which are broiled until they’re black around the edges and the htipiti is golden and bubbly. The result—salty, sweet, smoky, hot, and luscious all at once—embodies the bold cuisine of the region better than any dish I know.