Roasted peppers are perfect for rounding out a dish, enjoying as a snack, or even using as a food wrapper!
Whom should we thank for such a versatile vegetable that adds so much smoky sweet flavor to an endless amount of dishes? Some would say Mother Nature and others a cook... I'm going with both. The earth provides us with the vegetable, but it's the roasting technique that gives it that subtle smoky flavor.
First, let's learn how to make them, and then we can talk about the many ways to use them.
While red peppers are the most common, you can roast orange or yellow ones, too. The roasting mellows their flavor and adds a smoky sweetness.
Roasting peppers is a simple technique and takes just under 15 minutes. Place clean, dry peppers over a gas flame or in a 400 degree oven until it is charred on all sides. (If you're doing this over a burner, use tongs to turn the pepper.)
Remove the charred pepper from heat, transfer to a paper bag and fold over the top (or place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap). Let sit for 10 minutes so the residual heat of the pepper can loosen the skin. Uncover and pull the skin, seeds, and core away from the flesh. Rinse well. (Throw away only the core--we'll learn what to do with the seeds later!)
Slice or dice, then refrigerate in a sealed container for up to one week. You can also freeze them for up to three months in a zip-top bag.
If you don't feel like making them yourself, that's OK. You can find roasted peppers in the pickle aisle or the international foods section of your supermarket. You'll see two varieties: packed in oil or packed in brine. You want the ones packed in brine (sometimes the jar will say "water packed."). Drain the brine and rinse well to lower the sodium content.
Now you have the roasted pepper, what to do?
Pepper and Tomato Sauce: Combine 3 chopped roasted peppers with 1 (15-ounce) can diced no salt added tomatoes, diced onions, chopped garlic, and Italian seasoning for a flavorful quick sauce. Add to whole wheat pasta, spread over bruschetta and top with white beans, or use as a sub anywhere a traditional tomato sauce is used. You can puree it or keep it chunky. Just sauté the aromatics (onions and garlic), add the herbs and spices, then the tomatoes and peppers and heat through.
Cool Pepper Soup: Puree 3 roasted red peppers along with 1 peeled cucumber, 1/2 red onion, and 1 slice whole-grain bread. Thin with vegetable stock and garnish with Greek yogurt for a cool summer supper.
Flavor-Packed Puree: Puree 3 roasted red peppers with 1 clove chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon drained capers, and 1/2 cup chopped parsley for a quick roasted red pepper puree. Toss in pasta dishes, add 1-2 tablespoons to rice dishes 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time, spread over meats as they go into the oven for roasting, spoon onto wilted spinach for a flavor booster, or--my favorite--spread over whole-wheat toast then top with flaked tuna and beans-- yum!
Pesto: Substitute roasted red pepper in your traditional pesto recipes. You may want to keep some basil or parsley for color, too. Spread over eggplant or zucchini just before grilling for a simple side dish or swirl with Greek yogurt for a quick dip.
Tortilla Stand-In: Use a roasted pepper as a substitute for wraps. Check out my Deconstructed Chicken Fajitas. Perfect for those wanting to lower carbohydrates or just add flavor.
Bonus: roast the seeds! If you roast your own, keep the seeds. Toss them with a drop of olive oil and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes, until lightly toasted. Sprinkle the on salads or soups for a nutty garnish.
What is your favorite way to eat roasted peppers? Need more inspiration? Try one of these recipes!
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