Ingredients

Pepper, sweet bell

General Description: Sweet bell peppers (Capiscum annuum) are in the same genus as hot chile peppers, though these peppers are blocky in shape with thick flesh walls and sweet flavor. Peppers originated in Mexico and were eventually spread, probably by birds, over South and Central America. Sweet bell peppers come in many colors—green (or unripe), red, yellow, orange, purple, white, and even brown. (Unfortunately, the purple and white colors tend to disappear with cooking.) The color depends on the variety and the stage of ripeness. Almost all peppers start out green—a few start yellow—and ripen to another color.

The most common bell peppers are green, which are fully developed but not ripe. Red, orange, and yellow peppers are riper, sweeter, and pricier than green peppers. Suntan peppers are harvested when red or another color just starts to develop, leaving most of the pepper green. Many peppers on the market come from hothouses in Holland, Israel, and Canada. These peppers are evenly sized and have thick, juicy flesh and sweet flavor. Their calyxes are noticeably fleshy and firm. Sweet mini peppers were bred from bell peppers and hot peppers to develop a small, crunchy, sweet pepper with relatively few seeds.

Season: Sweet bell peppers are in season year-round with peak season from May through August. At different times of year there may be domestic or imported hothouse peppers on the market. Hothouse peppers sell for a higher price but also have greater yield.

Purchase: Choose fresh, firm peppers that are bright in appearance and thick fleshed with a firm green calyx and stem. The peppers should feel heavy for their size.

Avoid: Immature green peppers are usually soft, pliable, thin-fleshed, and pale green in color. Avoid peppers with wrinkled skins or any brown or soft spots.

Storage: Sweet peppers will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days. Since red peppers are riper than green ones, they will spoil faster. Mini peppers will keep up to two weeks. Don’t wash peppers until you’re ready to use them.

Preparation:

  1. Cut around the stem to remove it and discard.
  2. Pull out the spongy membrane encasing the seeds and shake the pepper to remove the seeds.
  3. Rinse peppers in cold water to remove the remaining seeds.

Serving Suggestions: Cut peppers into rings or strips and eat them plain or with dip. Roast peppers tossed with fresh herbs, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil at 425°F for about 15 minutes or until the peppers have softened and are brown at the edges. Brown hot and sweet Italian sausage with strips of peppers, onions, and garlic, then toss with hot pasta and grated Romano cheese.

Flavor Affinities: Beef, cheese, eggplant, eggs, garlic, hot chile pepper, onions, pork, poultry, sausage, tomato, zucchini.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com