This recipe was inspired by going over to friends’ homes as a child, and all the sports on TV there that I couldn’t care less about. The repetitive back-and-forth of men in tights throwing a brown thing on a screen was a mere backdrop to the main event I’d shown up for: the delicious spread of finger food, ready for the taking. Specifically, my heart had a special bond with nachos and dips, dishes that were a rare sight in my household. Those snacks led me to this scallion pancake, in which red bell peppers make a nontraditional guest appearance. Each bite delivers those familiar flaky layers distinct in scallion pancakes, with a hint of acid from the peppers. A cashew crema and red bell pepper dip round out this tribute to the nachos of my childhood; it’s great on the side or drizzled all over the scallion pancakes.
- MAKE THE BELL PEPPER DIP: In a blender, blend the peppers until smooth. (Red bell peppers hold quite a bit of water, but if they aren’t blending smoothly, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh metal sieve, reserving solids and liquids separately. Set the strained liquid (red bell pepper water) aside to use in the dough. In a small saucepan, combine the bell pepper solids and the olive oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until the mixture simmers and thickens. Add the salt, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, water, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the mixture is a thick, vibrant orange paste, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof container, cover, and store in the fridge until ready to use. You can make this up to 2 days in advance.
- MIX THE DOUGH: Mix together the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, bring ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the red bell pepper water to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly pour the liquid into the flour mixture, stirring as you pour. Mix until it forms small chunks of dough. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons red bell pepper water and mix into the dough until incorporated.
- KNEAD AND DO THE FIRST REST: Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough is one smooth vibrant-orange ball. You should be able to press your finger into it and it should have some tackiness and slightly bounce back. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
- DIVIDE AND DO A SECOND REST: Uncover the dough and pour 1 teaspoon canola oil on it. Knead until the oil is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth once more. Roll the dough into a log, and then cut it crosswise into 3 pieces. Use your palm to flatten each piece of dough into a rough circle. Lightly oil each dough circle, then cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
- MAKE THE FLOUR AND SCALLION OIL SPREAD: While the dough is resting, place the scallions, salt, and flour in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat until it starts to sizzle. Remove from the heat and very carefully pour the hot oil into the heatproof bowl to flash-fry the scallions and bring out their flavor. Stir the scallion oil and set aside.
- FORM THE PANCAKES: When the dough has finished resting, uncover the dough circles and use a rolling pin to roll each into a flat, thin oval. Spoon an even coating of scallion oil onto each dough oval, then lightly sprinkle with salt. Roll the dough tightly, starting from the long side, so it becomes a long snake. Starting from one end of the snake, coil the dough like a cinnamon roll. When you reach the end of the roll, tuck the end of the dough under the bottom of the roll to seal.
- With your palm, press down firmly onto your coiled dough to flatten (or use a rolling pin). Flatten until the dough has reached your desired size (6 to 8 inches in diameter for a thinner pancake, 4 to 5 inches for a thicker one). Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. (Tip: stack the pancakes with layers of parchment paper in between so they don’t stick together.)
- COOK THE PANCAKES: In a medium nonstick pan, warm a glug of oil over medium heat. Place 1 pancake in the pan and cook on both sides until each side is lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes total. Repeat for the remaining pancakes. Cut into wedges and serve with a generous drizzle of cashew cream and red bell pepper dip spread throughout. Sprinkle with the chopped scallions and sesame seeds, and serve.