Dancing Tomatoes

local. seasonal. sustainable.

Thank the heavens (and the botanists) for the stout little pepper which takes its name from a cosmetic, used to make the lips red. That’s right, we’re celebrating the lipstick pepper today, a perfect little version of our beloved red bell pepper.

Cousin to the Bell Pepper

Actually, the lipstick pepper is the sturdy cousin of all the bell and the chili peppers, for it belongs to the capsicum annuum family. Most peppers need hot temperatures to develop whether or not they contain heat of their own. But not this little version, which was bred for cooler climes and has proven wildly popular in the northern Hemisphere. If you listened, you would hear pepper-lovers in the United Kingdom and much of northern Europe clapping, so happy are they to have this little pepper almost year-round.

At Dancing Tomatoes we are fond of this pepper too, for it is perfect for a delicate mouthful or a hearty meal, stuffed with this savory blend of tuna, garlic, capers and olive oil. Separately the tuna mixture and the peppers are each delicious; together, they rise to the stratosphere in both flavor and appeal. This version of a plat du jour illustrates, too, the way borders blend in a French café, bistro, or brasserie.

Italian Origin

For I first tasted a version of this at a farm table in southern Italy, where it was a main course, served with a platter of raw vegetables and some gorgeous polenta. I’d never tasted anything so good, which is why I added it to the recipe collection in PLAT DU JOUR and here, for you!

When you are buying tuna, it is important to use the finest and the most sustainable, which is albacore tuna, which doesn’t swim with dolphins so there is no by-catch, no needless waste. Make sure the albacore you get is packed in tuna, which keeps the fish moist AND holds some of the long chain Omega 3 fatty acids from the fish, which migrate into the oil as they sit in the can together. This is why the oil is an important part of the dish.

Flexible Dish

In the Plat du Jour context this preparation flexes – one stuffed pepper can be an appetizer; three served together make a wonderful first course; six count as a main course. If you’re serving this as a main course, accompany it with parsley salad for a delicious, and deliciously different, “dish of the day”.


Course: Main Course
Cuisine: French
Keyword: capers, garlic, lipstick peppers, tuna
Servings: 4 servings


  • 16 small sometimes called “lipstick” or “lunchbox” peppers, rinsed
  • ½ cup;125ml olive oil
  • 2 6 ounces;180g cans oil-packed albacore each, drained, oil reserved
  • 2 ounces;60g capers, preferably those preserved in salt
  • 1 medium clove garlic green germ removed
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley for garnish


  • Bring water to a boil in the bottom half of a steamer over high heat. Arrange the peppers in the steamer basket, cover and cook until the peppers are tender but still hold their shape, about 15 minutes. Remove the peppers from the steamer and when they’re cool enough to handle, slice off the top. Most of the seeds will be attached to the top of the pepper, so discard the top and the seeds. Using a teaspoon, gently scoop out any remaining seeds from the pepper. Don’t rinse them to remove seeds – you’ll rinse away flavor!
  • While the peppers are steaming, add enough oil to the reserved oil from the tuna to make 1/2 cup (125ml) total.
  • Place the capers, garlic, and the tuna in the work bowl of a food processor and process just until they are coarsely chopped together. Add the oil to the tuna mixture while the machine is running. Process until you have a homogenous but still a bit chunky purée.
  • Using the pastry bag or a small spoon, carefully fill the peppers nearly to bursting, with a bit of the stuffing mounding outside the pepper. Arrange the peppers on a platter, or 4 peppers on each of four plates. Arrange the caps near each pepper. Either place the parsley salad on the plate with the peppers or serve it separately. Serve immediately.

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