Bell peppers are called “peperoni” in Italian, pronounced like the spicy sausage slices served on pizzas in most of North America. In Italy, that type of sausage would be called “salami piccante”–and I’ve never seen it served on pizza here. Isn’t it interesting how foods evolve in our global experience?

Peppers were brought to Europe from North America by the Spanish explorers during their voyages of discovery. Hot, spicy peppers (called “peperoncini” or little peppers) are more common in southern Italian cooking than up in Piemonte where I live. But roasted peppers are common throughout Italy–on pizzas, on sandwiches, or served as a side dish. At the end of the blog I’ll show you a few of our favorite ways to eat them.

Bell peppers are at their peak about now in this part of the world. It’s a great time to buy up a bunch, roast them and freeze them to enjoy during the dreary winter months when they’re more expensive. You can roast peppers:

  • over a gas burner
  • on a charcoal or gas grill
  • under a broiler
  • over a campfire, if you’re out in the woods camping (I haven’t tried that one yet!)

For years I roasted them under the broiler…until we got a big grill. I find it quicker and less expensive to roast them on the grill so that’s the method I’ll show you here.

When I want to buy peppers for roasting, I look for large peppers with fairly straight sides. Lots of curves and ridges make it difficult to rotate them and to roast them evenly.

I preheat the grill to medium high…rinse off the peppers and place them on the hot grate. I keep the temperature fairly high, rotating them as they blacken.

Keep the temperature fairly high. If the temperature is too low, the peppers will be cooked before the skin is blistered and charred–which is what you need for them to peel easily. If you use a broiler, keep them as close to the coils or flame as is reasonably possible. Peppers are fairly soft even before cooking–unlike let’s say, carrots–so you don’t want to overcook them.

Sometimes I even turn them up on end, to char the top or bottoms.

Once they are blistered and blackened on all sides, I place them in a bowl covered with foil, or a large pan with a lid. (You can also use a brown paper bag.)

They probably won’t all be done at the same time, but just place them in one at a time and close the lid (or foil). This allows them to steam and loosens the charred skin. Leave the peppers to cool at least 15 minutes–or several hours–so you can handle them easily and peel off the skins.

Working over another bowl, I usually begin by pulling out the stem and seeds, discarding them onto a piece of foil…

…along with all the peels.

There is usually quite a lot of liquid inside of each pepper. I always drain that into my bowl with the peeled peppers to keep them moistened. In fact, when I’m done peeling the peppers, I roll up that piece of foil and squeeze any liquid from all those stems, peels, etc. onto the peppers.This gives more flavor and helps to keep them moist.

Once they’re all peeled, I peel a few cloves of garlic and toss them in with the peppers.

Now, at this point I can serve them in several different ways…or I can freeze them. I generally freeze them in smaller batches so I can use them a few at a time.

To serve them, I usually cut or tear them into strips–they’re packed with sweet flavor so you actually don’t need a lot to enhance a dish. In addition to the liquid from the peppers, I like to drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Most often, they are served just like that…as a simple side dish.

Wiping up all that liquid with a piece of crusty bread is probably the best part of the dish!

Roasted peppers also make a wonderful addition to a sandwich, panini or bruschette.

Here’s some grilled bread topped with speck (something like ham), a few slices of Provolone cheese and strips of roasted peppers…delicious! My good husband was ooohing and aaaahing as he ate his yesterday!

Today I tried something new. I wrapped strips of roasted peppers around small fresh mozzarella balls, holding them in place with a toothpick. A simple, eat-it-at-room-temperature appetizer.

Perhaps my favorite way to eat roasted peppers is to cut the whole roasted pepper in half, lay half of each pepper on a baking sheet or casserole dish…then I top it with a “slice” of feta cheese (it doesn’t slice too neatly so is more like a “crumbled slice”) and then top it with the other half of roasted pepper. I drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake them just 5-10 minutes until the cheese gets soft. Feta really doesn’t melt…but it oozes out and is just fabulous. For me the sharpness of the feta is a great complement to the sweetness of the roasted peppers. I serve them as an appetizer with crusty bread. (Sorry; no photo of the peppers with feta.)

You can purchase already roasted peppers in a jar…but they’re so easy to make. Why would you want to buy them? They can be stored in the fridge (for about a week) or frozen–so you can roast them whenever it’s convenient for you. Try ’em! You’ll love ’em!

Ciao!

Debbie

 

Roasting Peppers

Roasting Peppers

Ingredients

  • Sweet bell peppers (preferably red)
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Rinse whole bell peppers. Heat grill to medium high and place peppers on grate. To broil the peppers, line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place peppers on foil. Keeping the oven door ajar so that the broiler stays on. Broil or grill the peppers until blackened, rotating them until all sides are black.
  2. Place the blackened peppers in a large bowl and cover with the foil taken off of the cookies sheet. Alternately, you can put them in a large pot and use the lid to cover them. They need to steam so that the skins come off easily.
  3. Let cool completely. Working over another bowl so that the juice can run into it, peel the charred skin off of the peppers, placing the skins and seeds on the foil. The peppers can be left whole or torn into small strips. It’s fine if a few seeds fall in with the juice and pepper pieces. When finished, divide into smaller containers if desired, and top with salt and a layer of olive oil. Slice and add a couple cloves of garlic.
  4. The peppers may be frozen or refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.
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