26 September 2009

Roasted red peppers

One of the garden crops we have had the best results with over the years is red bell peppers. Starting in 2004, our first year of gardening in Saint-Aignan, the pepper plants have proven prolific and the peppers perennially perfect. (How's that for alliteration?)

What do you do with a dozen or more big plump red bell peppers? There are basically three options, and one that I prefer above the other two. First, you can stuff them with rice or meat or a mixture of the two and bake them in the oven. Or secondly, you can chop them up, removing the stems, seeds, and pulp, and cook them in a little water. Then run them through a food mill and make a puree, which is good in — or as — a soup, or as a pasta sauce or sauce ingredient.

A red pepper, roasted, collapses and shrivels some

The third and best way, I think, to prepare red bell peppers is to roast them. It's also pretty easy, at least until the time comes to peel and, especially, de-seed them. But the messy, tedious work of doing that part is more than repaid by the delicious result.

De-stemmed and peeled, but not yet
opened up and completely de-seeded

Roasting peppers is pretty straightforward. Rinse off and dry 6 or 8 fresh red peppers and put them whole on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF. Put the pan of peppers into the hot oven and wait for about 30 minutes. The peppers will collapse and shrivel up a little. The skin will start to blacken.

Go through the pepper pieces one last time to remove
stray seeds, and then roll or fold them and arrange
them in a dish if you plan to use them immediately.

Take the roasted peppers out of the oven and immediately put them into a big bowl or baking dish — use tongs. Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap. The hot peppers will create steam inside the sealed container. The steam will help loosen their skins. And meanwhile they will also release a lot of delicious reddish brown juice, which you'll want to save.

When it has cooled completely, put the dish of cooked peppers into the refrigerator if you don't want to work on skinning and cleaning them right away. It'll hold there for 48 hours easily. When the time comes, remove one pepper at a time from the dish and work on it. I put each pepper into a big shallow pasta bowl and clean it there, so that I don't lose any of the juice.

The rest of these pictures are here just to make you hungry.

First, pull out the pepper's stem and press lightly on the top of the pepper to squeeze as many of the seeds out of it as you can. Then see if the skin won't just peel right off. Usually it will, but sometimes you have work on it a little big, peeling off a strip at a time.

Finally, tear the pepper open from top to bottom. It will come apart at the natural seams, very easily. Then start picking the seeds off and out of it. That's the part of the process that takes time. Plan on having wet, sticky hands for the remainder of the peeling and seeding operation. If you want to take pictures, you'll have to stop and wash your hands frequently so as not to gum up your camera.

Pour the pepper juice over the pepper pieces
before you put them away or serve them.

Just stack the pieces of pepper flesh in a dish and keep working. When all the peppers are processed, wash your hands and then go back through all the pieces one more time to remove any stray seeds that remain. This takes some time and again is fairly messy. But remember, it's worth it. And don't rinse the pepper strips off — you'll lose a lot of the good flavor if you do.

Pour the juice from the bottom of the bowl you peeled the peppers in, and from the bottom of the dish you stored them in, through a strainer into a big measuring cup or a clean bowl to remove those pesky seeds. Don't throw the juice out!

Roasted red pepper pieces swimming in sweet, thick pepper juice

The best way to preserve the roasted pepper flesh long-term is to freeze it. Put some of the pepper pieces in a plastic freezer container and pour on enough juice to cover them. Put them in the freezer.

When you want to eat them, thaw them. You can have them as a salad or in a salad with some olive oil and balsamic or other vinegar. And some of the pepper juice, of course. You can also eat them on sandwiches or on toasted bread spread with cream cheese or soft fresh goat cheese. A sprinkle of salt, a grind of pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil... and a glass of wine.


  1. You've made at least two people hungry this morning.

  2. oooh with goat cheese.... yumm yumm :)


  3. In winter, I roast bell peppers, eggplants, zucchini, tomotoes including garlic and onions; at the end, I mix them all together and have a delicious roasted ratatouille.

  4. I need to remember to plant red peppers next year. Your recipe looks very good.

  5. God I'm hungry....Victoria, Bellingham,WA


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