Want to add some pizzazz to your recipes? Try roasting your own peppers. Whether hot or sweet, roasted peppers are a great addition to your kitchen. Any pepper can be roasted, although those with thicker flesh are better, making bells and jalapeos your best choices. Added to salads, sandwiches, casseroles, soups or ethnic food, they turn up the taste with little time or effort involved.
Roasting peppers is a simple process. Apply approximately two teaspoons of cooking oil to the peppers, making sure to cover cracks and dimples. (Don’t use extra-virgin olive oil; its smoke point is too low and it will create a problem as the peppers roast.) Put peppers on a cooking sheet and place in preheated broiler section of your oven. Watch the peppers as they roast; remove from oven and turn (using tongs) when the skins begin to develop dark spots on top. When dark spots appear on the second side, remove the peppers from oven.
Place hot peppers in a bowl deep enough to accommodate their height for steaming. Tightly cover the container with plastic wrap, creating an air-tight bond. Peppers may also be steamed in zip-lock freezer bags. The steaming process is very important, and completes the cooking process.
When the peppers have cooled (abut 20 minutes), pull the stems from each. Hold a pepper on a flat surface (clean countertop or vegetable-designated cutting board) and peel the skin off. The steaming process will loosen the skin, and it should come off easily. Holding the pepper in one hand, squeeze down the length of it with the other to mash out seeds and pulp. While this may not remove all the unneeded bits, it will take care of most of it. Cut the peppers open and lay rib-side up on your work space. Remove any remaining pulp.
Roasted peppers should stay good in the refrigerator for about five days.
To freeze peppers (allowing roasted peppers all year long); place charred peppers into zip-lock freezer bags instead of steaming in a bowl. Keep the skins on them to prevent freezer burn. Make sure to label and date the peppers so you know what variety of pepper you have, and how long it’s been in the freezer.
Besides serving peppers in salads, sandwiches and soups, try some of the following suggestions.
~ Mix roasted peppers with garlic, minced black olives and onion, cream cheese and a bit of milk (to thin) for a unique dip.
~ Use roasted peppers with spinach to make vegetable lasagna.
~ Stuff roasted pepper with cooked ground beef, tomato, onion, garlic and rice mixed with one can each corn, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Top with cheese and place in oven until it melts. Add a chopped roasted bell pepper to the same stuffing and place in a halved, cored summer squash. Broil until the squash softens.
~ Put roasted peppers on homemade pizza.
~ Mix chopped roasted peppers with mushrooms and onion, cook with beef tips and add jarred gravy. Serve over rice.
~ Place roasted peppers, black olives, garlic and tomatoes in a food processor. Process and add 3-4 Tbs. of EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) to make a wonderful sauce for meats or poultry, or as pesto for French bread.
~ Use roasted peppers to make homemade salsa.
Roasted peppers can add a tang to a wide variety of recipes. Be adventurous see what excitement you can create in your kitchen!