Lauren Groveman a recipe for delicious living

Garlic-Scented Roasted Peppers

(May 10, 2007)
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Brenda asked Lauren:

Dear Lauren,

We love peppers and I will often cut them and sauté them to serve with grilled meats. I have never roasted peppers at home but I will use the ones in the glass jars from the supermarket. I find them to be quite good. Does roasting them yourself really make that much difference in the taste? And, if so, what's the best way to do this since the term roasting is done in the oven, but books say to cook peppers over a gas flame. I'm confused.

Lauren says...

Actually, Brenda, I'm surprised someone else hasn't brought this confusing point up sooner. Let me address the last part of your question first. Yes, it's true that the word roasting does refer to the oven, most often. But, the truth is that the term itself means to surround something (hopefully food) fully to dry heat. So, roasting can be accomplished in a conventional oven, a wood-burning oven, in a barbecue and also by repetitively rotating something over a direct flame (or under intense heat, in the case of broiling). So, as long as you have a heat source, you can roast peppers.

To address the first part of your question, yes, there are discernable differences between store-bought and homemade roasted peppers. That's not to say that I don't always have jarred peppers on my pantry shelf because I do and happily use them when I don't have the homemade ones in my fridge. And, you're right, they're quite good. When done correctly at home, roasted peppers taste fresher and allow the cook to have more control over retaining a more meaty texture. But, conversely, when over-cooked at home, the jarred ones will be much firmer and tastier.

The easiest peppers to roast (albeit the most pricey) are Holland peppers because of their dense, meaty texture. The others (domestic peppers) have thinner flesh and are more susceptible to over-roasting (too soft a texture). Having said this, all peppers can be roasted successfully (even the small jalapeno peppers), if you are focused and remember a few key things.

The best way to roast peppers and maintain fresh texture is to use the direct flame method because the heat is being administered in the most deliberate, section-by-section, way. The best tasting roasted peppers are done over a direct charcoal flame so that the flesh becomes imbued with the flavor of smoldering coals. The peppers are secured with sturdy skewers (preferably stainless steel) and then they're rotated over bottom heat until the outer skins of the peppers are blackened. You can also rotate the peppers, using long tongs. (If using a gas grill, have the setting on high.) To roast peppers indoors, place the peppers (on skewers) over a direct gas flame, rotating the pepper as the outer skin blackens. You can also do this using a preheated stove-top grill pan.

The most important thing to remember is to not go overboard when blackening the skins. Once the skins are blackened in one area, you must turn the pepper to expose another area to heat. Then, once the peppers are blackened, they get removed from the heat and wrapped loosely in a clean kitchen towel so that they can become cool enough to handle (the steam created from the hot pepper, when trapped in the towel, will also help to tenderize the flesh). Then, once just warm, all the blackened skin gets rubbed off (it's very easy…). The pepper gets halved and the seeds are removed. After this, all you do is decide whether to slice, dice or to leave them halved. I usually make a batch each week and store them in the fridge, either alone or drizzled with some fruity olive oil and thinly sliced fresh garlic.

If you have an electric stove and don't have a grill, you'll want to broil the halved peppers, skinned side up, as close as possible to the heat source. Once the skins become blackened, take them out of the oven, wrap in a towel and follow the same instructions for cooling, peeling and seeding as described above. Roasting the whole pepper in a hot oven (at 500F for 15 to 20 minutes) is doable, but this will just soften the pepper and not impart any particular flavor. In this case, you'd want to flavor the peppers with olive oil and minced garlic and, once the peppers have surrendered most (not all) of their texture, let them sit and cool (not wrapped) at room temperature. Peppers done this way will not get peeled but will need to be halved and seeded.

Another great way to grill peppers!

If you don't want to deal with peeling peppers, but want a really savory flavor do this:

Using a sturdy vegetable peeler, peel away the outer skins of the raw peppers. Cut peppers in half and remove their seeds and any tasteless, white pithy sections from their inside cavities. Mix some extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, black pepper and some hot red pepper flakes in a bowl and brush this over all sides of the halved peppers.

Grill over hot coals (or use a gas grill set to high) or on a preheated (hot) stove-top grill pan until the flesh is tender and somewhat blistered and slightly charred but totally savory looking. Brush with the olive oil-garlic mixture as you cook the peppers, turning occasionally. Season the peppers with coarse salt to taste and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. (If desired, before removing the cooked peppers from the grill lay some fresh mozzarella in their cavities. Reduce the heat and cover just until the cheese melts. Serve hot.)

Here's an official recipe for Garlic-Scented Roasted Peppers that I have made more times than I can count!

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Garlic-Scented Roasted Peppers

roasted peppers

At least once a week, my family dinner will include a large platter of roasted red and yellow peppers, partnered with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced ruby red beefsteak tomatoes and thin wedges of sweet red onions, and topped with a scattering of my favorite olives and a small handful of drained capers. Often I’ll add either a bunch of cleaned baby arugula or basil leaves that I either park on one side of the peppers or tuck neatly in between the tomatoes or peppers. Whether sliced and tossed into a simmering sauce or a succulent stew, chopped and incorporated into a rice pilaf, or used as a piquant topping for hot slices of garlic toast that accompanies a soup meal or cocktails, having roasted peppers in the refrigerator enables you to quickly embellish your meals. And don’t limit this to only sweet bell peppers since the roasting process also works well on hot jalapenos. Any time I've suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that's unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management to get more information.

    For the Roasted Peppers:

  • As many red and yellow bell peppers as desired
  • Garlic Confit Oil, as needed or use best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Thinly sliced or minced fresh garlic, to taste (optional)
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste

1) To roast the peppers: Stick a sturdy metal skewer into the stem end of a red or yellow bell pepper and place the pepper over and into a direct flame. Let the skin blister and become blackened, turning frequently. When blackened all over, slide it off the skewer directly onto a clean kitchen towel or into a paper lunch bag. Enclose the pepper completely in the towel (or scrunch the bag shut) and let it steam until it becomes tender and cool enough to handle. Alternatively, to broil the peppers, preheat the broiler with the rack as close as possible to the heating element. Halve the peppers and lay them on a cold broiler pan skin-side up. Broil the peppers until the skins are blackened and blistered, then remove them from the oven and let them cool as described above.

2) To skin, seed and flavor the peppers: First unwrap them (they will look somewhat shriveled and feel limp). Rub the blackened skins off the peppers, revealing the flesh. If little stubborn bits of the blackened skin bother you, just rinse them off, though this will remove a bit of their smoky flavor. Cut the peppers in half through the stem end, and pull out their veins and seeds. Again, feel free to lightly rinse out any stray seeds, then dry the peppers meticulously, and place them in a clean wide-mouth jar or in a sturdy plastic tub. Drizzle the peppers with the garlic oil or another great-tasting olive oil and grind in some freshly ground black pepper to taste. If serving within 24 hours, you can layer several thinly sliced (or minced) garlic cloves within the halved peppers.

3) To serve: If serving that day, keep the peppers at room temperature. If planning to refrigerate, for best flavor, bring the peppers close to room temperature, before serving. In a pinch, zap them in the microwave (uncovered) for 30 seconds to 1 minute, on high, just to help loosen any congealed oil and to take off their extreme chill. Sprinkle the peppers lightly with coarse salt just before serving.

    Lauren Logo Timing is Everything

  • The peppers can be roasted, skinned, seeded, flavored with oil and ground pepper and stored in the refrigerator, securely covered, several days ahead and used throughout the week. The addition of fresh garlic, however, will reduce their longevity, so avoid adding garlic more than one or two days before serving.

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Lauren Groveman recipes have been featured in many national magazines and local newspapers. Her books "The I love to Cook Book: Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking for Family and Friends" and "Lauren Groveman's Kitchen, Nurturing Food for Family and Friends" are available through Amazon.com.

For in depth information on Lauren Groveman as a writer, teacher, TV & radio host, as well as her recipes and cooking tips visit her website at www.laurengroveman.com

Lauren is a Larchmont resident. She is happily married and blessed with three wonderful children.