School has started, and the weather lately has been decidedly fall-like. But don’t let the cool breezes fool you: this is prime time for peppers and other height-of-summer vegetables. You’ll find piles of sweet bell peppers at the market right now.
No one ever minds eating them raw (plain, or with hummus or yogurt dip, etc.) but if you’ve got an hour or so you can char them in the oven, slip off the peels, and stack them in freezer-safe containers to brighten the grey winter days.
In the last few years, I’ve scaled back some of the cooking and preserving that I do every summer. One thing that I never miss, though, is restocking my freezer with roasted sweet peppers. Like my parents did when I was growing up, I make pots of sauce for pasta all year round. We always freeze a container or two from each batch for later. My mom, my dad, and I have each developed our own individual stamps on the sauce we make. My dad favors a heavier dose of dried oregano. My mom often makes meatballs, but neither of them put meat in the sauce. I always use crushed fennel seed and a chunk of the roasted red peppers from the freezer.
You can roast peppers very easily in the oven or even on the grill. (I am partial to the oven method myself.) I lay the peppers out on a cookie sheet – plain, no oil, just clean peppers – and turn the broiler on. Periodically (say, every 5 minutes) I peek to see if they are getting charred, and using a set of oven-safe tongs I turn the peppers over so that all sides get roasted and the skins start to bubble up.
Once all of the peppers are roasted, use tongs to put them into a bowl and cover it with a large plate to steam for a few minutes. Remove the plate. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, you can slip the skins off and pull the stem out (if needed). I usually do that and pile them on the cutting board, where I can portion them into containers for the freezer.
What can you do with your roasted peppers? Here are some ideas:
(Lots of soup ideas out there)
Or…add to your favorite pasta sauce!