Picking Up Where Peter Piper Left Off
By Robin Kline
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, July 21, 2004; Page F02
Sweet bell peppers have a dual personality. Enjoyed raw, they have a fresh crunch. When roasted, however, their sweetness intensifies, and, if they are roasted on a grill, a pungent smokiness invades this sweetness.
Roasted peppers are so appealing and versatile, it's worth grilling a dozen. They keep nicely in the refrigerator after peeling. Dice them for potato, pasta or bean salads, add to almost any sandwich or burger, offer on an antipasto platter, puree and stir into sour cream for dipping, layer into lasagna.
We can enjoy sweet bell peppers year-round. The big beauties that pop up in the produce section during winter months may come from the Netherlands, California, Florida or Mexico. But this time of year, gardens and produce stands are overflowing with a local bounty of shiny and flavorful sweet peppers in a variety of colors.
For some recipes it's fun to cook peppers of multiple colors -- yellow, black (purple), orange and green. But I find that red, yellow and orange peppers give the sweetest flavor.
Roasted or Grilled Peppers
No grill? You may instead blacken the peppers under the broiler, directly over the flame of a gas burner or in a 450-degree oven. Steam and peel as directed below.
Lemon juice (optional)
To grill the peppers: Prepare a hot fire in grill. Place the peppers on the the grill directly over the flame. Grill until the skin is completely blackened, using tongs to turn the peppers as necessary, 5 to 10 minutes, depending upon how hot the fire is. (If you have too many peppers to fit on the grill at one time, you'll have to grill them in batches.)
To roast the peppers: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the peppers directly on the oven rack. Roast until the skin is completely blackened, using tongs to turn the peppers as necessary, about 15 minutes.
To broil the peppers: Adjust the oven rack to about 6 inches from the heat source. Place the peppers on the broiler pan and broil, using tongs to turn the peppers as necessary, 5 to 7 minutes.
To peel the peppers: Using tongs, transfer the peppers to a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap or transfer them to a large brown supermarket bag and fold down the top of the bag. Let the peppers steam until they're cool enough to comfortably handle, at least 15 minutes and up to an hour. Remove and discard the stems, seeds and any rib material from inside each bell pepper.
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