TDB Homemade: Roasted Red Peppers

Roasting red bell peppers on your own is not particularly difficult.  It takes some time, but not a lot of work, and, WOW, are they delicious – way better than what you get in a jar.  A gas stove or a lit grill is a must because you need an open flame, but, otherwise, the process is easy.

Step 1:  Clean and thoroughly dry your red peppers.

Note:  this method can be used with other peppers, such as yellow and orange bell peppers, or even poblano chilis. 

Step 2:  With large tongs that can withstand high heat, hold the red pepper directly in the open flame of your stove or grill.  I find it helpful to remove the grate from the stove burner, if applicable.  Allow the flame to char, or blacken, the skin entirely and evenly — be thorough — it’ll make things easier later on.  Choosing red peppers with a smooth body and not a lot of deep crevices helps to achieve an evenly charred surface.

Note:  peppers can be placed directly under the broiler in a gas oven, if the stove top is not an option.  It takes a little longer, and the peppers don’t blacken as evenly, but some people prefer this.  Place pepper(s) on a cookie sheet as close to the flame as possible and rotate every minute or two until they are done.

Step 3:  Place charred pepper(s) in a large heatproof bowl and cover with a lid or plate.  I have a Pyrex bowl with a lid that works very well for this.  Allow them to cool and finish roasting for at least 30-40 minutes.

Step 4:  By scraping with the blunt side of a knife or with your hands, remove the charred skin from the cooled peppers.  This is a bit messy, but resist the urge to rinse the skin off the pepper with water — you’ll wash away a lot of the flavor.

Step 5:  Cut peppers open and remove the seeds and small amount of pale ribbing that remain.  Now they’re ready to eat!

Step 6:  If you don’t plan to eat them right away, cover them with olive oil and store them in a non-porous container.  They will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.  However, in my house, they disappear within 1-2 days!  When they’re gone, be sure to retain the oil that is now infused with that wonderful roasted red pepper flavor.

Roasted Red Pepper Cooking Ideas

Roasted red peppers can be used in many ways.  Sliced or chopped, they can dress up salads and sandwiches.  Puréed, they make a great base for sauces and dips.  One of my favorite recipes is for this Roasted Red Pepper Dip by Jacques Pépin.  My version is as follows:

Roasted Red Pepper Dip / Sandwich Spread

1 roasted red pepper, cut into strips or chunks, about 3/4 cup

3-4 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame seeds (toasting is optional and alters the flavor)

salt and pepper to taste

If toasting the sesame seeds, place them in a dry frying pan on medium heat for several minutes.  Toss them occasionally so that they don’t burn, and remove them from the heat when they turn a nice golden-brown color.

Place all the ingredients into a food processor and purée until smooth.

Serve with cut veggies, crunchy bread sticks, crackers, or on bread for a sandwich.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Sauce

2 roasted red peppers, chopped, about 1 1/2 cups

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus more for garnish

2 cups chopped tomatoes with the juices, or one 15-ounce can

1/3 cup half and half

1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan or straight-sided frying pan, sautée the red peppers and garlic with a sprinkling of salt and pepper over medium heat for about 4 minutes.  Add the basil and sautée for one more minute.  Stir in the tomatoes and another pinch of salt and heat to a slow simmer.  Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked, and the sauce has darkened.  If the sauce seems watery, remove the lid and allow some of the liquid to evaporate.  Add the half and half and the Pecorino Romano cheese and return to a simmer for one minute.  For a smooth texture, purée the sauce with a wand blender, or carefully transfer it to a standing blender.

Serve over pasta, ravioli, or gnocchi and top with freshly chopped basil.

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