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How to Roast a Bell Pepper

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roastedpepperWhy buy roasted peppers in a jar when you can roast them yourself? There are several easy ways to do this, you don’t need any fancy equipment, and the freshness of the flavor can’t be beat.

You can roast peppers on the grill or in the oven. You can even roast them on top of the oven, if you have a gas stove top and are careful.

If you are using your grill, get it hot before starting. Then just put your freshly washed peppers on and close the lid. Let it set for a couple of minutes before turning. Keep repeating this procedure until all of the sides have been well charred and the pepper has softened somewhat from the heat. (It is only the skin that chars and you are going to remove that.)

Remove the peppers and place in a paper bag or plastic bag with a little air in it. Let them set for at least 10 minutes to let the peppers steam. Then let the peppers cool enough to where you can touch them, so that you can peel them with your fingers. Not every last speck of peeling will come off, and if that bothers you, use a vegetable peeler or paring knife for those tiny spots. Just don’t scrape the pepper away in your AR zeal.

“The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook” — the not-so-new but well-used 1986 edition on my shelf — offers the following tips for roasting green and red peppers in an oven: “Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prick each of the green and red peppers in several places to prevent them from bursting when roasting in oven. Place peppers on cookie sheet, making sure peppers do not touch each other. Roast about 20 minutes or until skin puckers, turning peppers occasionally so they won’t burn.”

“Remove peppers to medium-sized clean brown paper bag; fold top of bag to seal it, and let stand at room temperature 10 minutes (keeping peppers in bag to steam makes it easier to peel off skin). Remove peppers from bag; peel off skin and discard seeds.”

I would also add that you need to remove the veins from inside as well before you cut them into your desired shape.

What is not in these instructions? Any mention of washing the pepper after it is roasted. Do not do this.

So do, but it affects the flavor of the pepper, says Moe Lazri, general manager of Fig Tree Restaurant and Little Rhein Steakhouse. He knows whereof he speaks: He created the most attractive antipasti plate I’ve ever seen, and his roasted peppers were excellent.

If you are using your gas stove top, hold each pepper using a set of tongs directly on top of the flame. I’ve seen cooks place the pepper in the flame; if you do this, make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy, just in case it goes flying.

You can do any of these steps with chile peppers, but adjust the cooking time to fit the different size. And be careful with handling those. You don’t want to peel them with bare hands.

No matter how you have roasted your peppers, you can enjoy them plain or dressed with a  drizzle of olive oil, some salt and maybe a few fresh herbs or crumbled feta cheese. Add them to recipes, garnish your favorite burger or sandwich with them, use them in salads. They can be as versatile as your imagination.

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