Friday, September 9, 2016

Eats: Roasted Red Bell Peppers

Hello! I like roasted red bell peppers, but I don't like their prices at the grocery stores. So instead I take advantage of the local farmer's market and the current cheapness of fresh red bell peppers there. I buy a big bagful of them and roast my own. 

There are a number of directions out there for roasted red bell peppers; over the years I've combined a few instructions to come up with an easy method:

Roasted Red Bell Peppers

1. Preheat broiler and line a broiler pan (I use an old cookie sheet instead). 

2. Cut pepper in half vertically and remove the stem, seeds and white pith. Press down on each half with the palm of your hand to flatten it. The flattening creates a more even surface, which results in more skin blackening. The peppers will likely split when you press down on them, so avoid this step if you want perfect halves.

3. Broil until skins are black. This takes eight minutes under my broiler, and I turn the cookie sheet around halfway through for more even blackening. 

4. Remove peppers from oven and place in container with lid. Cover with lid, then set aside to cool. Letting the peppers sit in a covered container helps loosen up the skins, and of course they're easier to handle when cooled.

5. The job of peeling the peppers is a bit messy, but if the skins are pretty well-blackened, it goes fairly quickly. I've peeled big bowlfuls of them while watching TV. 

6. The peppers exude juices once they're roasted and cooled. So, after the peeling step I like to let them drain in a colander before proceeding further. This probably isn't as critical if you're going to use them right away. But if you decide to roast some to store in the freezer, I think this step helps reduce the peppers' wateriness when thawed. 

7. My freezer storage method: I toss the drained, roasted peppers with a little olive oil, then portion them out into 5 ounce amounts. (Why five ounces? To be honest, I don't remember anymore, but it seems to be a size that works well for my small family. You can freeze any package size you want!) Each portion is packed in plastic wrap, then the packages are placed on a cookie sheet and popped into the freezer. Once they're frozen solid, the packages are then stashed in freezer bags and returned to the freezer. They'll keep several months that way. 

Here's the bowlful I did earlier today:

Above, three batches of peppers have been roasted.

Peeled and drained:

They look much nicer now, don't they?

And how do I use all these roasted bell peppers? Here's just a few ways:
  • in sandwiches
  • pizza topping
  • mix with some chopped fresh garlic and Italian-style dressing for a salad (always part of my husband's birthday dinner)
  • minced, in homemade breads
  • sautee onions and garlic in olive oil, then add some chopped peppers and sautee some more. Toss with cooked pasta for a fast entree. 
  • I don't like the taste of cooked green pepper, which happens to be an ingredients in many recipes. I'll sub in some of my roasted red bell peppers instead. They don't taste the same as cooked green peppers, of course, but they add a nice flavor all their own. They look colorful in a dish too!

I've just listed some basic, no-recipe-required uses, but of course there's lots of recipes that specifically call for roasted red bell peppers. Perhaps you'd shied away from making these recipes because, like me, you didn't want to pay for those little jars at the grocery store. 

Well, now you don't have to. Take advantage of those cheap farmer's market prices if red bell peppers are in season where you live and make your own!

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