Q. How do you roast peppers?
A. Before you begin, remember to practice extreme caution when handling chili peppers: Wear rubber or latex gloves to protect your hands from the oils. Don't touch your eyes or face while cooking with peppers. And wash your hands well immediately after handling peppers. If your skin begins to burn, wash the affected areas with soap.
The following methods for roasting peppers work for most chilies, including the popular green, yellow, and red bell peppers you use in your everyday cooking. Even with these peppers, roasting will bring out a savoriness and smoky flavor that may surprise you.
For each of these methods, you may roast the pepper whole, or slice through the pepper lengthwise and flatten it onto the cooking surface. Remove veins and seeds for a milder pepper flavor.
- Oven method: Preheat the broiler. Place the peppers on a baking sheet or oven-proof skillet and place under the broiler until they are browned and blistered. Be sure to check on them often; turn whole peppers occasionally so that all sides are roasted. The more charred they are, the easier they will peel and the more flavorful they will be.
- Grill method: Lay the flattened or whole chilies directly on the hot grid. If using whole peppers, turn them frequently with tongs so that they blister evenly.
- Stovetop method: Wearing an oven mitt to protect your hands and forearms, and, with tongs or a long-handled fork, hold the whole pepper over the gas flame and turn constantly until the pepper is evenly charred. Or, in a dry cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, "cook" and stir whole peppers or large chunks of peppers until blackened.
No matter which method you use, the next step is to transfer the blackened peppers to a paper or plastic bag and seal, or wrap them in foil, and set them aside for at least 15 minutes to steam. When cooled, the skins can be easily peeled, either with a paring knife or by holding under running water; the skins should peel off easily. Leaving on some of the char is actually tasty and adds to the smoky flavor. Discard the skins, remove and discard the veins and seeds if you want a milder flavor, and proceed with your recipe.
Q. What's a simple way to roast bell peppers?
A. Roasting is a simple way to cook bell peppers and to bring out their inherent sweetness. There are three simple ways to do this:
- Skewer the whole pepper on a long-handled fork and hold it over the gas flame of your kitchen range, turning it so the skin blackens evenly.
- Place the pepper on a hot charcoal or gas grill, turning it as the skin blackens.
- Slice off the top of the pepper, remove the seeds, slice it in half lengthwise, and flatten it on a broiler pan or a piece of aluminum foil; place it, skin side up, under a hot broiler.
No matter which method you use, roast the pepper until the skin is blistered and black. Then place it in a small paper bag, seal it, and set it aside for 15 or 20 minutes. The pepper will steam inside the bag, allowing you to peel the skin off easily.
Q. How do you store bell peppers?
A. Bell peppers can be frozen for use later. Freezing will cause them to lose their crispness, but they will still be fine for chopping and cooking and adding to chilies, soups, stews, and any other recipe that calls for chopped bell peppers.
To freeze bell peppers, slice off the tops and remove the seeds. Wash and dry thoroughly. Slice peppers in quarters or sixths, depending on the size of the pepper, and spread pepper pieces on a cookie sheet or baking pan; they should not be touching.
Freeze, then store in a freezer bag in the freezer. They will thaw quickly, so, for cooking, take as many pepper pieces as you need from the bag and return the rest to the freezer.
Q. What benefits can you derive from peppers?
A. Nutritionists have discovered that all peppers, sweet or hot, contain good levels of beta-carotene (related to vitamin A) and vitamin C, the so-called "healing" vitamins.
Peppers allowed to mature from green to red have twice as much vitamin C as when they were green. Red sweet bell peppers have 11 times the beta carotene of green bell peppers. And hot red peppers have even more beta carotene than sweet peppers or hot green peppers.