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Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Produce Department: Roasted Red Peppers

We all have our favorite flavors. For some of us, it’s chocolate; for others it’s garlic. What’s yours? The daily staple, coffee? An exotic fruit like mango or pomegranate? Or maybe Camembert, which a French poet described as smelling like "the feet of God"?

Roasted red pepper is very high on our list of favorite flavors: simultaneously sweet and smoky, it adds complexity to a dish without overwhelming the main ingredient.  And despite their rich taste and meaty texture, roasted peppers are nutritious and fat-free.

We serve them by themselves, unadorned as a colorful side to entrées. They are particularly good with steak or fish. We dice them and add them to salads, pasta and even bread. (We’ll post the bread recipe at a later date.) And we put them in sandwiches with other roasted veggies, such as eggplant. 

And lately we’ve been whirring them into a concoction that works as a dip, a spread, or a finishing sauce. You’ll find that recipe here.

You can buy canned roasted red peppers, and some supermarkets have them in the bulk area with olives, but these tend to have a medicinal, "processed" taste. And they’re more expensive than the homemade variety.

Yesterday our supermarket had thick-skinned large peppers for 99 cents a pound—a bargain. So we bought seven and roasted them all.

It’s probably easiest to do this on a gas or charcoal grill, but you can do it on a gas stovetop as well. Set the heat on high, lay the pepper on the grate and let the skin blister to black. Turn the pepper to char all sides, trying to leave no skin unblackened.

When the peppers are done, put them in a brown paper sack and close the top to let them sweat in the bag for at least 10 minutes (longer is fine). 

Next, remove the skins, stems, and seeds. They’ll be hot, and there are a couple of methods for doing this. Ruth puts on rubber gloves and rubs the black skin off into the compost bucket. Tim rinses the skin away under a cool low flow of water, then chucks the collected bits into the compost bucket. 

You can make them ahead of time, because they can be served at room temperature.


  1. Yes, a gas stovetop works fine. We sacrificed a cake rack to this job, which helps especially with roasting smaller items such as tomatillas. Because I like the flesh of the peppers to retain some of its "meatiness," I don't sweat the roasted peppers in a bag. Instead, I just let them sit for a few minutes after roasting, split them open to release the steam, and slip the blackened skin off when they're cool.

  2. Good idea. Actually, we have a difference of opinion about this: Ruth is opposed to running water over the peppers, believing that it washes away flavor and makes them mushy, whereas Tim thinks it's just fine to do that and that Ruth is an annoying prig.

  3. What's the best way to store them if you're not using them right away? Freeze? Store in olive oil in the fridge?

  4. Clearly the best way to preserve if you're not going to use them within 3-5 days is to freeze them, particularly if in the ultimate use you're going to slice, dice, or whir them up. But roasted peppers are a bit mushy by nature, so thawed whole fillets are good too. Just not quite as good as just-roasted.
    They'll also last a bit longer in the fridge if covered in olive oil (the red pepper sauce, which contains olive oil, also covered in the blog has been know to last longer than we'd like to admit in the icebox. But there are no preservatives in the fridge preservation method, so they won't last forever. You see those tubs of roasted peppers in olive oil in the bulk olive section of the supermarket that sit out seemingly for an entire season, but they've got preservatives added and that's why they taste a bit medicinal.
    We mostly find that we use what we make, but we just glad-bag any unused ones in the fridge and use them within 5 days or so.