Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Roasted Bell Peppers Technique


Bell peppers. Have you ever seen them growing? When you see them in the store they're in separate bins segregated by color--red, yellow and green and sometimes orange or purple. But if you see them on the vine, you understand they come from one plant. That green peppers ripen to red, yellow, orange or purple depending upon the variety. By the way, the name "pepper" is really a misnomer. Peppers are in no way related to black pepper. But it took botanists quite a while to figure that out.

Chock full of vitamin C, and gorgeous to look at, peppers are phenomenal when roasted. It may seem like a lot of work, but it's really not. And in any case it's work worth doing. If you have ever had an Italian antipasto spread that included roasted red peppers marinated in a little olive oil and garlic you know what I mean. And if you haven't, give it a try. They also make a wonderful ingredient in other recipes. I love to put them in sandwiches. Pureed, red peppers make a wonderful sauce.

Preparing roasted peppers is really more about technique than recipe. Here are the techniques involved to go from fresh bell peppers to roasted.

Roasting:You begin with a baking sheet covered with foil and oiled or sprayed with cooking spray. Place the washed peppers, any color, on the foil and then drizzle or spray with olive oil before placing in a very hot oven. I put mine on broil. What you want is for the peppers to blacken on the outside. So you need to keep an eye on them and turn them as they get black. When they are uniformly black, take them out of the oven and place in a plastic container with a lid. It is important to seal the container because you need to let the steam from the peppers loosen the skin on the outside to make them easy to peel. They also need to cool. Give them at least ten minutes of cooling time. Twenty is better.

Peeling: The next couple of steps are messy, but it goes pretty quicky. To try to minimize the mess, I used to peel the skin off the peppers under cool running water. But I don't anymore. You end up removing too much of the flavor this way and your peppers will be bland. Trust me on this! Instead take the cooled peppers and trim the stem, ribbing and the seeds out with a paring knife. Using your fingers, rub the blackened skin off the peppers and underneath you will find your prize, a silky roasted pepper. Store in the fridge. They can be marinated in olive oil. Keeps a few days or freeze. Better yet, just use 'em!

Last week I used a bunch of roasted red peppers to make Romesco sauce for fish. But I'll save that recipe for another time.