Since I discovered a fantastic recipe for roasted red pepper hummus, I’ve taken to roasting my own red bell peppers at home. It is so incredibly easy, and the result is something so much more fresh and flavorful than you would bring home in a jar from the grocer.
Roasted red peppers have a distinctively smokey, yet sweet flavor that lends itself well to many dishes. You can add it to pasta, salad, sandwiches, or serve it in the spotlight on top of crusty bread with a little goat or fresh mozzarella cheese, olive oil, and salt and pepper. There are also a variety of dips it complements, including the yummy hummus recipe I’m about to share. Mmmm, I really shouldn’t write this on an empty stomach.
<Break for lunch>
Ok, so a little bit about red bell peppers before we get started. Did you know that a red bell pepper is just a green bell pepper that has been ripened on the vine? And that extra time on the vine gives red bell peppers an extra punch of nutrients. Red bell peppers have three times as much vitamin C and 11 times as much beta carotene as their green counter parts! One large bell pepper has 209 mg of vitamin C, which is actually more than double the 70 mg of an average orange. How’s that for surprising?
Bell peppers are available year-round, but the peak season for red bell peppers is in the fall at the end of the green pepper’s peak season, as you might have guessed. This fall, stock up, roast your own peppers, and freeze or jar them for later use as I’ll show you below. Bell peppers are on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables that contain the most pesticides, so in order to get the maximum health benefits from bell peppers, make sure to buy organic whenever possible.
Roasted Red Peppers
You actually have several options for roasting red peppers: grill them, broil them, bake them, or roast them over a gas stove. After trying several of these options, my preferred method is to grill them. Nothing beat the smokey, sweet smell as I brought them in from the grill. The grill also seemed to be the quickest method. If it’s too cold out or you don’t have a grill, I’d consider broiling the next best alternative.
First, wash peppers thoroughly. Place the peppers directly on the grill with the flames on high. As each side blisters and begins to blacken, turn the pepper to roast another side.
Remove the pepper from the heat. Place it on a cutting board or other surface and then place a glass bowl over it to trap the steam, and let it sit for about 10 minutes. The build up of steam will help soften the skin and the flesh pull away, making it easier to peel.
By now, the pepper should have cooled enough that all you need are your fingers to pull the charred flesh away from the pepper. It’s okay if you don’t quite get all of the skin. Whatever you do, do not rinse the pepper, as you’ll wash away much of the roasted flavor.
Remove the stem and seeds. In most cases, a simple tug on the stem will pull it all out, but you may need to use a paring knife to cut away the stem and scrape out some of the seeds. Voila, you now have a lovely roasted pepper ready to eat or store for later.
Doesn’t that look lovely? Now if you choose to broil your pepper, set the broiler to low and move the oven rack to the top third of your oven. Place your pepper directly on the oven rack and place a baking pan underneath the pepper on the rack below to catch any juices. Leave the door ajar and watch your pepper, turning as each side blisters and chars.
Another alternative is to bake your pepper. Set the oven to 425°F and place the pepper directly on the rack with a pan below. Turn the pepper approximately at 10-15 minutes, roasting for a total of 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the pepper.
Finally, you can roast your pepper over the gas flame on your stove, but this is certainly not preferred if you’re roasting more than one pepper. And I don’t think it looks nearly as good as the other methods either.
Storing Roasted Red Peppers
There are a couple of alternatives for storing roasted red peppers, depending on how long you’d like them to keep and how you plan to use them. In any case, you’ll want to slice your red pepper into strips for easy portioning later on.
If you plan to use your peppers within a week or two, place them in a jar and cover them with olive oil and, if you like, add a few garlic cloves. One source I found compared methods and found that olive oil provided the best flavor as opposed to a vinegar solution which is more like what you might find in commercial jars of roasted red peppers.
On the Shelf:
Alternatively, you could seal the jar using proper home canning techniques, but because peppers and olive oil both have low acid content it is recommended that you use a vinegar solution to prevent bacteria growth. Peppers sealed in a jar using this technique should last on your shelf up to 12 months.