By Jan Roberts-Dominguez
If you’ve been growing sweet bell peppers this year, then right about now those prolific plants are taunting you: I’m still producing … what are you gonna do about that?
I say roast ‘em! Then freeze ‘em. That’s the solution to taming an abundant pepper population.
Besides, I love the smell of roasting peppers, whether they’re resting on a baking sheet in my oven, pierced with a fork and suspended over a gas burner on my stove or dangling above glowing mesquite coals on a grill. Whatever method, the result should always be the same: a lovely layer of bubbled and charred skin.
With roasted peppers in the freezer you can make so many wonderful sauces, spreads, and soups through the entire autumn, winter, and spring. Until you run out, of course.
Roasting and freezing sweet bell peppers
One method would be to pierce each pepper in several places with a sharp knife to avoid bursting, then place them on the baking sheet. Place the pepper under a broiler and broil, turning several times, until it has blackened over most of its surface.
Alternatively, you could blacken peppers over a gas flame on your stove top by spearing each pepper with a fork (pierce each pepper in several places with a sharp knife to avoid bursting); rotate the pepper as it blackens.
This method is somewhat time-consuming, so I don’t recommend it if you are roasting very many peppers.
Another method is to simply place the pierced peppers on your grill over hot coals and roast, turning as they blacken, until they are thoroughly blackened.
Once the peppers have been roasted, let cool and then peel away the blackened skin. Slice the peppers open and remove the stem and seeds.
Don’t worry if some of the skin is too stubborn to slip away from the fleshy portion. As long as you get the majority of the skin, it’s fine.
To freeze, arrange the peeled peppers on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place them in the freezer until they are firm. Place the individually frozen peppers in re-sealable freezer bags and keep frozen for up to nine months or longer. The quality may suffer a bit if your freezer doesn’t get below 0 degrees.
To use your frozen cache of peppers, simply remove the desired number of them for a given recipe and thaw at room temperature until soft. They will release a bit of juice during the thawing process, so thaw them on a dish or plate so you don’t lose that delicious juice!.
Linguini with roasted peppers and hazelnuts
1 3-ounce chunk of Parmigiano reggiano cheese, cut into pieces
4 red bell peppers (or a combination of red and yellow), roasted and peeled (as described above)
About 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
12 ounces linguine (either dried or fresh)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped roasted hazelnuts (or pine nuts)
Additional shredded Parmesan (to pass at the table)
Place the cheese chunks in a food processor and grind using the pulse button so that you don’t over-process the cheese. Add the roasted peppers, basil, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Continue processing until the mixture is ground to a coarse sauce consistency (chunks will remain). Adjust the seasoning, adding additional salt and pepper if necessary, then scrape the sauce into a bowl and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just until tender. Drain the pasta from the water (reserving about 1/8 cup of the hot pasta water, which you will add to the sauce when tossing with the pasta). Place the cooked and drained pasta in a large bowl. Add the sauce and toss well to coat the linguini. If the mixture seems a bit dry, add a couple tablespoons of the hot pasta water. Add the hazelnuts and toss again before serving.
Additional cheese may be passed at the table.
Makes 4 servings.
This is a delicious spread to spread on toasted rounds of a crusty bagette.
Simple roasted red pepper sauce with black olives and garlic
4 large (or 6 medium) roasted and peeled red bell peppers
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3 fresh cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup coarsely chopped black olives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or a dollop of pesto)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Dice the red peppers, reserving any juice that accumulates.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a medium-large skillet. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring often, until the onion is tender and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the peppers, olives, basil, salt, and pepper flakes, along with any reserved juice (if there is no pepper juice, then add about 3 tablespoons of dry white wine or chicken broth. Cover and simmer the mixture over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, just so the flavors marry and the peppers are very tender.
The sauce may be used immediately or refrigerated for about a week (or frozen for several months).
Makes about 2 cups.
Roasted sweet pepper crostini with muffuleta garlic-olive relish
2 roasted red sweet bell peppers (or 1 red and 1 yellow)
1 French or Italian baguette, sliced into twenty 1/4-inch thick slices
1 cup muffuleta garlic-olive relish (recipe follows)
2 balls (each about 6 to 8 ounces) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into twenty 1/4-inch thick pieces
If frozen, thaw the roasted peppers, then slice into thin strips and set aside.
Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet and place them under the broiler to toast for about 40 seconds on each side, just enough time so they begin to blush golden brown; remove the bread from the oven.
When ready to serve, spread a small amount of the muffuleta garlic-olive relish on each piece of the bread (crostini). Cover with a slice of the cheese, and then top with two strips of the pepper to form an X.
Return the crostini to the broiler and broil for about 30 seconds, just to soften the cheese. Serve immediately.
Makes 20 hors d’oeuvres.
This is such a marvelous concoction, with roots in New Orleans, where the muffuleta sandwich — a hearty combination of Italian-style meats and cheeses, slathered with a rich olive and garlic relish — was created decades ago.
However, this is also a wonderful mixture in its own right. Simply place the relish in a bowl alongside slices of a crusty baguette for a simple appetizer.
Muffuleta garlic-olive relish
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olive
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted black olives
1/4 cup coarsely chopped red onion
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 heaping teaspoon drained and rinsed capers
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Place the olives, onion, parsley, vinegar, garlic, capers, oregano, and black pepper in the workbowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixture until the ingredients are finely chopped. Add the olive oil and continue processing until the mixture is thoroughly chopped but not pureed. This mixture will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.
Makes 1 cup.
Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist, and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit,” and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.