Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hands On - Roasted Red Peppers


(Note to faithful readers - My husband Frank (videographer in training) and I are learning how to make videos.  We may not be ready for prime time but I think you will find this tutorial useful.  Just remember, Paul and Julia Child were beginners once too.  Share with a friend.  Maybe it will go viral?)
If you have roasted sweet red peppers on hand in your kitchen it is like having a great dancing partner in a ballroom.  With roasted red peppers, you can add dips, leaps, swirls and twirls to everyday dishes.  You will feel just like Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire.

Roasted red (or yellow) peppers can be purchased bottled, canned or fresh in the deli case.  You can also make them at home in minutes.  Once you get the hang of this, you will wonder why you ever bought them.  This is the time of year to take on this project - red sweet peppers are in season.  They are in CSA boxes and at farmers markets.  This year my husband grew some Carmen peppers and I have been quite pleased with them, especially for roasting.  I made a little batch yesterday and am looking forward to adding some peppers to a white bean salad today.  Roasted peppers seem to have an affinity for almost any dish containing corn, squash or beans.  Add a handful or two of diced peppers to jazz up corn chowder, a squash gratin or a bean stew.  Or add some peppers the next time you make polenta or risotto or pasta sauce.  This is what restaurants do.  Pay attention - they add a little roasted pepper for color and flavor and then you are happy to pay an extra five dollars for what is really a very simple dish.

Broiler or gas burner
To roast peppers at home, all you need is a baking pan or dish, a broiler, a knife, some tongs or a fork and a board.  Some people advise roasting peppers over the flame of a gas burner instead of under a broiler.   I have tried roasting peppers this way and have decided I prefer the broiler method.   You can roast more peppers in the same amount of time and I think the charring is less spotty.  You may have a better gas burner set up than me - or maybe even a gas grill.  By all means give that method a try if you want.  Or use a charcoal grill.  The main thing to remember is that you want a nice black charring over as much of the pepper as possible.

Char the peppers
Put whole peppers that have been washed and dried in a heavy baking dish about two inches below the heat of a broiler.  Check every few minutes to see how they are doing.  Once one side is pretty well blackened, turn peppers over with tongs and broil the other side.  In this picture, the two peppers in the back were broiled whole.  In the front are two halves from a pepper that I cut and de-seeded before putting under the broiler.

Steam the peppers
Place the charred peppers in a covered dish to steam until cooled.  Many recipes suggest using a brown paper bag for this step.  I think a covered dish works as well and does not waste a bag.  Plus I can capture any little juices that run out of the cooked peppers.

De-seed the peppers
Carefully slice open the charred pepper and remove the seeds and any "ribs" of the pepper.  This is a little tricky because the seeds are kind of slippery and sticky.  You will be tempted to just rinse off the seeds.  Don't give in to that.  You don't want to wash away all that nice roasted flavor in the pepper juices.

Optional approach - de-seed before roasting
Sometimes I cut peppers in half and remove the seeds BEFORE roasting.  I put the deseeded halves skin side up on the pan and then char and peel as I would for whole peppers.  I haven't decided yet if I think this cutting in half approach is best overall - but it sure makes de-seeding easier.  You would not be able to use the gas flame for charring if you cut the peppers before roasting. This only works if you broil the peppers.

Peel the peppers
Lay the de-seeded pepper flat on a board or plate, skin side up.  Using your fingers, gently push and pull the skin away from the flesh.  If you have done a good job at the charring and the steaming, this part should be pretty quick and easy.  Don't worry if a little of the skin stays on the pepper.  If you are having trouble using your fingers,  use a little paring knife to help scrape the skin off.  Again, do not be tempted to rinse the peppers with water.

Store the peppers
You can keep the peppers in a covered container in the refrigerator about a week.  For longer storage, freeze in freezer containers or bags.  Consider dicing or slicing before freezing for ease of use.

Cook with the peppers

Roasted red pepper hummus
This hummus recipe would be great as a dip or sandwich filling or just plain with some rice, plain yogurt and a cucumber or green salad on the side.  A sandwich made with a slice or two of plain roasted eggplant and some of this hummus would be quite fine.


About 2 cups home cooked or canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste - available in Middle Eastern grocery, food co-ops or many large supermarkets)
3-4 T. fresh lemon juice (the juice from one large juicy lemon)
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed (save time and peel after smashing each clove. The peel will come right off.)
half to three quarters cup of roasted red peppers
optional - red pepper flakes or a little fresh chile pepper. Don't overdo.
Fresh parsley for garnish  (Or add 1/2 cup loosely packed parsley to the hummus before processing,)

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and maybe a little drizzle of extra olive oil.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta sauce
Here is a link to a pasta sauce recipe.  I chose this one because it gives you another way to use some of your Featherstone Farm broccoli, garlic and fresh tomatoes.  Note that the recipe tells you to rinse the roasted peppers under running water to remove skins.  Please ignore that part.  But the rest of the recipe looks pretty good to me.  (I would probably add a tablespoon or two of olive oil for sauteeing the garlic instead of cooking spray but that is just me.)

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