All About Peppers
Featured Recipe: Gazpacho
More Ideas for Peppers


All About Peppers

Selecting: Choose bell peppers that are firm, shiny, and wrinkle-free.  The sweet red peppers that people enjoy are actually green bell peppers that have matured to a red color.

Preparation and Use:  Peppers can be enjoyed in many ways, including raw, sautéed, grilled or roasted.  Here is one easy way of roasting peppers in a hot oven, though you can also do it under the broiler or on top of a gas flame on the stovetop.

Storing:  Keep them unwashed and dry in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.  Moisture is the bell pepper's enemy as it causes peppers to degrade faster.  Peppers should keep in the refrigerator for about a week.

Longer term storage: You can "flash freeze" bell peppers.  In fact, it is really easy because peppers don't need to be blanched first.  Simply wash the peppers, then cut them in half and remove the stem, rib membrane, and seeds.  Cut them into the size you like to cook with: strips or dice, large or small.  Arrange peppers on a baking sheet, keeping each piece separate so they don't stick together.  Freeze until firm, about one hour.  Transfer frozen peppers to a freezer bag, squeezing out as much air as possible.  When you want to use the peppers, just remove what you need from the bag and reseal.  Hot peppers can be treated in a similar way.  Frozen peppers can be used raw or in cooking.  For best quality, use the frozen peppers within 8 months.

I have also successfully frozen roasted peppers.  In this case, I divide the roasted peppers into portion sizes that I would for a single recipe before freezing in containers.
 

- Betsy Pollack


Gazpacho

Gazpacho = Liquid Salad. I know this might seem like more of a tomato recipe than a pepper one, but this soup just isn't the same without chopped peppers.  To me, gazpacho is the perfect thing to make when tomatoes are ripe and the weather is hot.  I make this early in the morning, before the kitchen heats up (I don't have air-conditioning), and let it chill all day for a refreshing starter for dinner.  The chopped vegetables lose their crispness when immersed in the cold tomato soup, so I store the two components separately and combine just before serving.

Serves 4

2 pounds ripe tomatoes
2 cups tomato juice (low-sodium is fine)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp Tabasco
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 green or red pepper, seeded and diced
2 scallions, sliced or ½ cup diced red onion
 
It's up to you. I think this is recipe is better when the tomatoes are peeled, but feel free to skip this step.  This is the only step that heats up the kitchen.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  At the same time, fill a medium bowl with ice cubes and water to make an ice bath.  Cut a small X in the base of each tomato.  When the water boils, drop one or two tomatoes into the pot for about 30 seconds, or until the skin around the X starts to peel back.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to the ice bath to stop them from cooking.  Using your fingers, you should be able to peel the skin off the tomato.  If the skin is stubborn, don't sweat it. Just leave it on. 

Chop the tomatoes into ½-inch pieces.  Transfer the tomatoes (along with any seeds and juice) to the blender.  Add the tomato juice, minced garlic, olive oil, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and basil.  Puree until smooth.  I run the blender for 1 to 2 minutes.  Transfer the tomato soup to a container and chill for at least 2 hours.

Before serving, stir diced cucumber, pepper, and scallion or onion into the tomato base.  Ladle into bowls.

For a Latin Variation:  Substitute lime juice for the vinegar, 1 minced jalapeño for the Tabasco and cilantro for the basil.

When it isn't prime tomato season, substitute a 28-oz can of whole peeled tomatoes with the juice for the fresh tomatoes and tomato juice.

Vary the chopped vegetables to use other crunchy vegetables you have on hand.  At different points in the season, I will use diced radishes, salad turnips, and/or peas, though peppers and onions are always a constant.

Betsy Pollack is a LexFarm board member with a passion for cooking.  She tries to eat as mindfully as possible, thinking about where food comes from, geographically and otherwise, eating seasonally, and supporting local agriculture.


More Ideas for Peppers

Peppers do not appear in many recipes as the main ingredient.  You can add them to a wide variety of dishes, such as quiche, risotto, pizza, or paella.  They are a key component of many salsas.  This week, we offer mainly recipes in which peppers are the major player, as well as ideas for adding peppers to other dishes.

Entrees
Peppers can be stuffed with many different fillings.

 
There's beef stir-fried with peppers for Chinese takeout at home.

Sauté peppers with onions and Italian sausages.  Serve on a plate, or in a roll for a ballpark sandwich at home.

In this Southwestern-flavored gratin mixed peppers and corn are cooked in a custard for a vegetarian main dish.
 
Add peppers to chili, like this vegetarian cashew chili, which has been a long-time standby at Jackie's. This makes a big pot and freezes very well.
 
Cook peppers to add to fajitas.
 
On a cooler night, this easy oven roast with chicken (or pork) with assorted peppers and greens is a favorite at Betsy's.

Peppers can be added to quiche, as in this market vegetable quiche, or, in French, quiche maraichere.

Classic Pepper Recipes from Around the World
Piperade is a Basque melange of peppers and tomatoes, cooked down until it's melting.  You can serve it as a side, over eggs, or as a base for braised chicken

Peperonata is a similar preparation, without the tomatoes, from Italy.  This could be a side or used on top of crostini for antipasto.

Romesco is a garlicky red pepper and nut-based sauce from the Spanish region of Catalonia.  Try it with hazelnuts on broccoli or with almonds on cauliflower.
 
Soups
For a very yellow soup, try saffron and yellow pepper soup.
 
Add some diced pepper for some crunch in your gazpacho.  For more inspiration, here are a dozen more ways to make gazpacho, some red, some green, some with peppers, and some without.
 
This recipe for Peanut Soup with Rice and Scallions will be delicious in late summer when local peppers and local sweet potatoes should both be available. This should freeze and thaw well.
 
Salads
Roast the peppers to caramelize the flavors.  Then mix it with other Mediterranean flavors to make a roasted pepper salad.

Roasted peppers can also be added to Deborah Madison's lentil salad with lemon vinaigrette.
 
Or chopped raw peppers add crunch to black bean salad.
 
Miscellaneous
Make a very simple stir-fry as a side.

Add peppers to tomato sauce.  This recipe can be easily quadrupled or even sextupled depending on how many tomatoes and peppers you have, and it definitely freezes well.

Do you enjoy butter on your corn?  Try making a compound butter with roasted green peppers.

Hot peppers will be part of the share later in the summer.  You can pickle them.  Candied jalapenos are amazing; they step up the flavor profile of a banh mi sandwich, nachos, or any other way you enjoy pickled jalapeno slices.

For even more ideas, Mark Bittman suggests 16 ways to enjoy bell peppers.  You can also check out more bell pepper recipes on Martha Stewart, Eating Well, the New York Times from  Mark Bittman or Martha Rose Shulman, and Saveur.
 

- Compiled by Jackie Starr and Betsy Pollack