Monday, July 23, 2012

How to Roast a Pepper

Peppers - red, green, yellow, poblano - have a lot of natural sweetness. To play up this sweetness, roast them, either in your oven or on your grill. The texture is also dramatically different - soft and silky rather than crunchy. It's an easy process and can save you a bunch of pennies. Roasted peppers are sold in jars but they are often quite expensive. They are packed in an acidic solution to preserve them. The preservative is usually citric acid, a totally natural preservative but it does change the flavor. Homemade roasted peppers are much sweeter because of this, and you can preserve them by freezing them with no loss of flavor or texture.The next time peppers are on sale, buy a few extra to stash away.

When selecting peppers to roast, look for boxy ones, without lots of wavy parts. The boxy ones will blacken up more evenly then the oddly shaped ones.

Whether you use a grill or the broiler in your oven, the process is the same:

Remove those stupid stickers and wash the peppers.

If broiling in the oven, place on a cookie sheet without a nonstick coating. The coating can't stand the extremely high temperature of the broiler. You may want to line it with aluminum foil to make cleanup easier.

Put the peppers in the oven or on the grill and leave until the skin on the broiling/grilling side is blistered and black. [Usually, you'll be able to peel the skin off easily if the skin has blistered enough to wrinkle up, even if it hasn't turned black.] Turn the peppers to get them blistered or blackened on all sides. When they are done, put in a heatproof bowl and cover the bowl with plastic.

Let them sit for about 10 minutes. The steam will loosen the skins and make them easier to peel.

Peel off the skin and remove the core and seeds. You can rinse them off  to get the last bits off but I was once berated by a famous Southwestern chef for doing this. He said it washed off the sugars. On the other hand, Rick Bayless(*) does rinse them off, so you'll be in pretty good company if you do.

Once the peppers are all clean, use them within a few days or freeze them. I recommend you freeze them as halves or whole. They are much easier to separate if you freeze them in a stack, since you probably won't be using your whole stash of peppers all at once.

Here's recipe that not only makes use of the roasted red peppers, but the beautiful summer tomatoes are now showing up in markets everywhere.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Roast Peppers, Shrimp, Capers, and Olives
(Serves 3, total cost is $8.40)

1 roasted red bell peppers, cut into 1" pieces
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
7 ounces cooked salad shrimp (see Note)
1 Tablespoons capers
2 Tablespoons chopped black olives
Zest of ½ a lemon, grated
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
3 large tomatoes
½ teaspoon Salt, divided
½ teaspoon Pepper, divided

Mix together roasted red pepper, oil, shrimp, capers, olives, lemon zest, parsley, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Cut off the top of each tomato. Use a paring knife to cut up the center of the tomato, being careful not to cut through the outer wall. Remove the center and seeds with a teaspoon. Season the inside of the tomatoes with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Fill the cavities with the shrimp mixture. Arrange in a shallow baking dish and bake in a preheated oven at 350° for 25 minutes, or until the tomatoes are a little soft.

Serve with crusty bread to soak up the delicious juices.

Note: A 6-7 ounce can of tuna, drained and flaked, can be substituted for the salad shrimp

* Rick Bayless is a chef in Chicago who is well-known for his deep and broad knowledge of Mexican cuisine. He has a show on PBS (highly recommended) and many excellent cookbooks. If you want to learn how to cook real Mexican food, he is your guy.


  1. But I love the way the stupid stickers get all blackened! Nice article and super recipe. Could add some white beans and really extend the stuffing, as well as adding fiber and other good legumes benefits.

  2. Excellent point, Deb! In fact, you could go wholly vegetarian by replacing the shrimp or tunafish with a can of white beans.