Sweet Red Peppers
When Christopher Columbus discovered sweet peppers on his travels in the New World, he thought he could make a fortune importing the delicious vegetable. However, the sweet peppers grew fine in their new, Mediterranean home. They remain a popular ingredient in Italian and Spanish dishes today.
When young, sweet peppers -- or bell peppers as some call them -- are green. There are also yellow, orange, purple and brown varieties. Red sweet peppers are actually green peppers left to ripen on the vine for a longer period of time. The sweetest peppers are red, yellow and orange, while green and purple peppers tend to have a more tart flavor.
The Nutrition Factor
Peppers are full of vitamins C and A, as well as folate. They are also high in fiber. Peppers consist mostly of water so the added bonus is they are low in calories.
Relish Red Peppers
Capsaicin, the compound responsible for the burn of chili peppers, might also rev up your metabolism. These hot peppers can bump up your metabolic rate and use up a few more calories (about 76 calories) for a short period of time by stimulating your sympathetic nervous system, according to research. In addition, hot peppers appear to reduce appetite. The caveat: Because capsaicin is so pungent, it's difficult to consume it regularly over the long term. Get it in red peppers!
Picking a Pepper
Look for smooth, firm flesh that has rich color and no shriveled or soft spots. Avoid peppers with a hefty feel - this usually means they are full of seeds. Peppers are in the market year round but they are at their peak after Labor Day. They make great companions to the other vegetables and herbs of the season, like tomatoes or the last of the summer basil. You can store your peppers in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag, for about a week.
When you slice open a pepper, be sure your knife is firmly inside the pepper. This keeps the knife from bouncing off the rubbery surface.
Always remove the cap and stem and scoop out the seeds (hands work fine as tools) unless you're planning to roast or grill or broil your sweet peppers whole. Scrap away the charred peel with a knife afterwards. Washing the peppers under running water dilutes their taste. If the peel is stubborn, you may wet your hands and then peel the skin off with your fingers."
Sweet peppers taste great with eggplant, tomatoes, summer squash, onions, garlic or corn. As for herbs, try basil or marjoram. Other good flavor partners include vinegar, capers, olives, mozzarella, goat cheese and Parmesan.
See also: Quick Cooking Tip: Sweet Bell Peppers
Penne with Asparagus and Red Peppers
1 tablespoon kosher salt
12 ounces penne pasta, ziti and rigatoni also work well
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound asparagus, ends snapped off and stalks cut into 2-inch pieces
2 roasted yellow bell peppers, peeled and diced
2 roasted red bell peppers, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1-1/2 cups low-sodium canned chicken broth
1-1/2 tablespoons minced, fresh thyme
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Black pepper, preferably freshly ground
Bring 1 gallon water and 1 tablespoon kosher salt to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just before it becomes al dente. Drain.
Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned, about five to seven minutes. Add the peppers and garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add the stock, bring to a boil, and lower the heat to medium.
Add the penne and thyme. Stir to combine the ingredients and simmer until the pasta is al dente, about five to seven minutes. Stir in half of the cheese and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer to a warm bowl, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve.
Recipe makes four servings.
Nutrition information per serving:
Serving Size: About 1 cup of pasta with vegetables.
Total Fat: 18g
Saturated Fat: 11g
Total Carbohydrate: 75g
Dietary Fiber: 6g
Percent calories from fat: 30-percent
Roasted Red Peppers
One whole red or green pepper
Slice the pepper in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place the two halves on a cookie sheet and press down so they lie flat with the skin side up. Place the pepper under a hot broiler until the skin is evenly blistered, about five to eight minutes. Carefully remove the pepper from the cookie sheet and place in a bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for five minutes. Uncover and peel off the skin. Recipe makes one roasted pepper.
Nutrition information per serving or one pepper:
Calories: 44; Total Fat: 0g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Protein: 1g; Total Carbohydrate: 11g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sodium: 3mg. Percent calories from fat: 6-percent.
Red Pepper Relish
One red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced or 1/2 cup diced
One jalapeno Chile, cored, seeded and minced or 1 tablespoon canned and chopped jalapeno Chile
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir well and set aside until ready to serve. Recipe makes about one cup.
Four large plump red bell peppers
1 large yellow or orange bell pepper
1 or 2 small onions, ends trimmed, then halved vertically
Two garlic cloves
Several sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano, or two bay-leaves
2 cups white-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons pickling salt or two heaping teaspoons kosher salt
Slice the red and yellow peppers into 3/4-inch-wide strips, discarding the seeds and cores. Arrange the pepper strips, onions, garlic, and the herbs attractively in two sterilized pint jars. Combine the vinegar and salt with 1-cup of water, dissolve the salt, and pour the mixture over the peppers. Cover and refrigerate the peppers for at least 5 to 6 days. The peppers keep well for months.
Red Pepper Avocado Puree
1 teaspoon peanut or extra virgin olive oil
4 red bell peppers, chopped
One jalapeno Chile pepper with seeds, chopped (remove ribs and seeds for milder puree)
1 small red onion, chopped
Juice of one lime, about 1/4 cup
Place a medium skillet over medium-high heat; add the oil. When the oil is heated, saute the peppers and onion for ten minutes. Slightly cool the ingredients, and place them in a blender with the avocado and the lime -juice. Puree on high-speed one minute. Add salt to taste, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature. Recipe makes four cups.
NOTE: Keep puree stored in the refrigerator for up to three days, in the freezer for up to one month. When ready to use, just thaw, reheat and eat.