For all my Italian friends and food blogger buddies, this will seem like a very elementary post. But I’ve had requests from readers to do more of these “How to” posts and I thought I’d start with roast peppers – easy to do and oh-so-much better than that jarred stuff packed in vinegary brine. Roasted peppers – good, homemade roasted peppers – add pizzazz to a lot of meals and make a nice bruschetta appetizer all by themselves with the addition of a little olive oil and garlic. While at the Trenton Farmer’s Market yesterday, I bought a bushel of these meaty red peppers for $12. They’ll get even less expensive as September approaches. But they were still cheap enough to lure me since I needed a fresh batch. I split the bushel with a friend but still had about 15 peppers to myself. I used an outdoor gas grill, but if you live somewhere without an outdoor grill, you can use your indoor broiler. They’ll require careful watching in either case. Turn the grill to high and let it preheat. Then just plop the peppers on the grill and close the lid. (Or put them on a cookie sheet in the broiler.) They’ll start to puff up and blacken. That’s what you want to happen. Turn them on all sides until they’re blackened completely. There’s a fine line however, into blackening the skins and burning the peppers. If you let the blackened skin stay on the grill too long, the meaty flesh will stick to the skin and scorch too. You’ll get a feel for it after you’ve done it once. Remove the whole peppers to a brown paper bag. (Well, it could be a white bag too.) Roll the top flap down to seal in the heat. This will help steam the blackened skins and separate the skins from the flesh. Just be patient until the peppers are cool enough to handle. Make sure you put a plate under the bag. Why? Because a lot of the water and oils from the peppers will leach out. If you tried to grab the bag, the sack would give way and the roast peppers would come falling out. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, you’ll be able to peel off the blackened skins. Open the pepper, take out the core and scrape out the seeds with a fork and knife. A flat knife, rather than serrated, works best. Once the pepper is scraped clean, slice it into pieces. Here are the skins and seeds taken from the 15 peppers. And here’s the reward for your hard work. I like to put these away in the freezer for the future. Use small plastic bags and place a small amount in each bag. Place the bags on a cookie sheet and put the cookie sheet in the freezer. Then after they’ve frozen, you can remove the cookie sheet and stack them on top of each other. Otherwise they’ll stick to each other and/or the freezer shelf. After they’ve defrosted, you can use them in recipes or just the way they are. If they’ve been in the freezer a long time, they may have ice crystals on them. In that case, defrost them and pat them dry with a paper towel, then add a little olive oil and minced garlic for a half hour or so to gain even more flavor. They taste great with grilled pork chops. They’re pretty darn special on a pork sandwich with melted provolone and broccoli rape too.
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