For Whom The Sweet Bell Pepper Tolls

Bell pep­pers are one of our favourite veg­eta­bles; although tech­ni­cally they are a fruit, they are referred to as veg­eta­bles in the culi­nary world. They are hardy, easy to grow, they are as deli­cious raw as they are cooked, and when they are cooked, they can be made into an almost inex­haustible vari­ety of dishes from many cuisines.

Bell pep­pers, also known as Capsicum, are a cul­ti­vated form of the species cap­sicum annum, yet have none of the heat asso­ci­ated with that plant since they do not con­tain cap­saicin, the chem­i­cal that you asso­ciate with hot peppers.

Bell pep­pers are most com­monly red, green, yel­low and orange; green pep­pers are sim­ply unripe red Bell pep­pers while yel­low and orange pep­pers are dif­fer­ent vari­eties cul­ti­vated from the same mother species. Bell pep­pers also come in pur­ple, white and var­ie­gated vari­eties as well, so a whole range of colours and flavours can be added to your cui­sine by choos­ing your favourite.

Even though red pep­pers are just ripe green pep­pers, they are usu­ally more expen­sive. They take longer to mature, so there is less yield per plant as the pep­per plant will con­tinue to pro­duce fruit after they are picked. Not sur­pris­ingly, a ripe bell pep­per is sweeter-less bitter-than its imma­ture green brethren, and is also higher in nutri­tional value, pos­sess­ing nine times the anti-oxidant lycopene and carotene as well as over 200 mg of vit­a­min C.

Depending on whether you want green or red pep­pers, bell pep­pers can be har­vested pretty much all sum­mer, with a typ­i­cal plant pro­duc­ing upwards of a dozen peppers.

Green pep­pers are most often seen in stir-frys, or stuffed with fill­ing and baked or skew­ered onto shish-kebabs, while red bell pep­pers are avail­able for a lit­tle more adven­ture. Certainly any pep­per works well for the bar­beque or stir fry, but red bell pep­pers, roasted on an open grill or black­ened in the oven trans­form into a culi­nary delight, ready to star in a sur­pris­ing array of dishes or sauces like Romesco, one of the best, low-fat, vegan sauces out there.

Many recipes for red pep­per dips and sauces call for pre­pared pimento, drained from a can, or roasted-or grilled red pep­per, skin and seeds and pith removed. Roasting and or grilling is totally sim­ple and really quick. And black­en­ing your pep­per on your bar­beque will impart a lovely smoky flavour as well. Furthermore, for those of us that hate to see beau­ti­ful coals go to waste, it is a great way to max­i­mize the use of the coals which are just per­fect for grilling pep­pers and other veg­gies once the steak is resting.

Here’s how to do it.

Just place your red pep­pers on the hot grill a few inches over the coals and wait a few min­utes. When the skin near­est the coals starts to blacken and blis­ter, use long tongs to rotate the pep­pers. Repeat until the entire pep­per has been black­ened, might as well do the top and bot­tom too.

Remove pep­pers from grill and place in steel mix­ing bowl and cover with saran wrap. Once cooled, place in your fridge. When totally cool, about fif­teen min­utes, remove skins with your fin­gers. The pep­pers will be super soft and the skins will peel off really eas­ily. Cut the pep­pers and remove and dis­card pith and seeds, do not rinse under run­ning water. In fact, don’t rinse at all, so what if a few seeds or bits of charred skin remain? Washing away those tiny bits will wash away all the smokey flavour from the grill. Once cleaned, you are left with beau­ti­ful, soft grilled red pep­pers ready to do your bid­ding. Pop them into a few freezer bags and you can have them within reach at any time. You might want to roast some pep­pers today and use them in a fab­u­lous dip like this…

Martha’s Roast Pepper, Paprika & Walnut Dip

Ingredients

3 red bell peppers

1 6-inch pita bread

1 cup water

1 gar­lic clove

4 ounces wal­nut pieces, toasted, plus more for garnish

1 1/2 tea­spoons paprika

3/4 tea­spoon ground cumin

1 table­spoon bal­samic vinegar

1 table­spoon lemon juice

2 tea­spoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

3/4 tea­spoon coarse salt

black pep­per

Steps

  1. Roast pep­pers. Peel, and dis­card skins, stems, and seeds. Set pep­pers aside.
  2. Toast pita bread until crisp and golden. Break into 2-inch pieces; place in a bowl, and cover with the water. Soak until soft, about 10 min­utes. Transfer to a sieve, and drain well, press­ing out excess water. Set aside.
  3. Combine gar­lic and wal­nut pieces in the bowl of a food proces­sor; process until fine crumbs form, about 10 sec­onds. Add paprika, cumin, and reserved pep­pers and pita bread; process until smooth, about 10 sec­onds. Add vine­gar, lemon juice, oil, and salt, and sea­son with black pep­per. Pulse until combined.
  4. Transfer to a serv­ing bowl; cover with plas­tic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. Before serv­ing, bring to room tem­per­a­ture. Drizzle with oil and sprin­kle with walnuts.

 

 

 

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