I usually work with three peppers of each color, but that’s not really necessary. Find sturdy peppers that will not fold or lose water that easily. Yellow peppers are the most delicate, so watch them closely. As soon as they blister, take them off the fire. Red peppers take the charring well as long as they are not too burnt. Green peppers are the toughest and usually take the longest to soften. Put them on a low fire and let them sit there until they char. Keep turning them so they are evenly blackened on all sides and ends.
The acrid smell of charring permeates the kitchen and lets everyone know…roasted peppers are on the way. As they turn black, I keep turning them over the fire and I’m reminded of the early days of summer with the family watching Formula One races, boys playing in the living room, and the heat of the stove flaring up in my face. Once the peppers are mostly blackened all over, remove them one by one from the fire and place them in a brown bag (close the lid tightly) where they will continue to steam until cooled.
Martha Stewart had a great hint for peeling roasted peppers. Hold the pepper in one hand and take a paper towel in the other. Carefully brush the blistered skin off, then pull the stem gently. The inner core and seeds will come away with the stem. I split the pepper in half and gently clean the rest of the seeds and peel. Never wash the peppers under the faucet! It washes away the flavors! my aunt used to say to us young cooks. So of course, the process becomes much more laborious and tedious. I place the sections of pepper on a paper towel to drain. I stack them between layers or towel paper so they will be relatively free of moisture. When I’m ready to cut the sections, I dry them one more time. You don’t want watery peppers! I slice them into slivers about 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide and place them in a 5 cup pyrex dish or other container.
With each layer, I salt lightly, then place some slivers of raw garlic and whole basil leaves here and there on the peppers. I keep doing this until all the peppers are sliced. Then I use a good quality olive oil and I fill the bowl until the peppers are covered completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. These are best after a day of resting….but usually don’t make it that far! They get better and better as they marinate. When you want to use them, take them out of the refrigerator to warm up to room temperature. After use, pack the peppers down and make sure they are covered by the oil before you store them again. Don’t throw the oil out! It’s excellent in salads or even thrown into hot spaghetti and parmesan cheese.
Ways to use these peppers…
- As an appetizer with crackers, assorted cheeses, and mixed olives
- As a side dish to grilled meats such as steak, marinated chicken breasts, or pork loin
- As a salad or in a salad with mozzarella
- In sandwiches, of course…but try grilled panini!
- In a pasta, especially spaghetti, with grated parmigiano and lots of black pepper.
- In a warm potato salad with red onions
- In a quesadilla with Monterey Jack and slivered white onions
- Fan wide slices of the peppers on a platter, top with zest of lemon and capers, sprinkle with lemon juice
- Drizzled over crusty bread and joined by a slice of salami