When Christopher Columbus discovered sweet peppers on his travels in the New World, he thought he could make a killing just importing the delicious vegetable. Alas for the explorer, sweet peppers grew fine transplanted in their new, Mediterranean home. They remain today a popular ingredient in Italian and Spanish dishes.
It's hard to say which is better the juicy, crisp taste of sliced fresh sweet peppers or the soft, smoky, succulent flavor they proffer after spending time on the grill. Check out FoodFit's Table for sweet pepper appreciation and recipes from Joyce Goldstein.
When they're young, most sweet peppers (or bell peppers as they are also known) are green, though there are also yellow, orange, purple and brown varieties. Red sweet peppers are actually green peppers that have been left to ripen on the vine longer. Red, yellow and orange peppers are the sweetest, while green and purple peppers tend to have a tarter flavor.
Sweet for You
Peppers are full of vitamins C and A, as well as folate. They are also high in fiber. Peppers are mostly water so they are low calorie to boot.
Pick a Pepper
Look for smooth, firm flesh that has rich color and no shriveled or soft spots. Peppers are in the market year round but they are at their peak after Labor Day. They are great companions to the other vegetables and herbs of the season, like tomatoes or the last of the summer basil.
Peppers can be pricey so avoid ones that have a hefty feel, it just means theyıre full of seeds. Peppers will keep in the refrigerator stored in a plastic bag for about a week.
Be sure that your knife is firmly inside the pepper when you set out to slice one open, otherwise the knife may bounce off the rubbery surface.
Always remove the cap and stem and scoop out the seeds (hands work fine as tools) unless you're planning to roast or grill or broil your sweet peppers whole. If you do, Joyce Goldstein recommends scraping away the charred peel with a knife afterwards. "Washing the peppers under running water dilutes their taste," she says. "If the peel is stubborn, you may wet your hands and then peel the skin off with your fingers."
Sweet peppers taste great with eggplant, tomatoes, summer squash, onions, garlic or corn. As for herbs, try basil or marjoram. Other good flavor partners include vinegar, capers, olives, mozzarella, goat cheese and Parmesan.
Celebrate peppers with these FoodFit recipes:
Festive Rice Salad
Michael Romano's Penne with Asparagus and Red Peppers
Polenta with Black Bean Salad
Red Snapper Vera Cruz
Roasted Red Peppers