I don’t know if I’m even ready to talk about the fact that the light is changing, Labor Day is behind us and before we know it we’ll be clad from head to toe in polar fleece. And to think that I only wore my bathing suit twice this summer — but maybe that’s a good thing. Even the most introverted Northwesterner must feel a tinge of dread when summer ends. Yeah, we get back to all that coziness we love so much and compared to the rest of the country we had a spectacular summer so I shouldn’t complain, right?
I think of late summer as a fifth season — in the fashion world, it’s known as “transition”– and that it is. Bittersweet roasted peppers may just be the perfect food to eat this time of year. They’re sweet, warm, spicy and comforting without being overly so. The farmers markets are loaded with peppers of all shapes, colors and sizes. I brought home some anaheims, poblanos, yellow Hungarian wax, sweet red and orange bell peppers — enough to fill a roasting pan and in less than 30 minutes had plenty for several meals throughout the week. If you can’t use them now, roast, slice and stick in the freezer in meal-sized portions for later.
Easy Roasted Peppers
Directions: Preheat the oven on the Broil setting (500 degrees)/ Set a rack in the upper third of the oven, close to the broiling element/ Spread any variety of whole peppers on a roasting pan/ Broil for about 10 minutes, until the skin is charred/ Using tongs, carefully turn the peppers over/ Continue broiling on the second side for about 10 more minutes, until charred/ Remove from oven and place in a bowl with plastic wrap tightly over the top (you can also use a paper bag) — the steam will make the skin pull away from the pepper.
Once the peppers have cooled, 15 or 20 minutes, the skins will easily peel off/ Remove skins (don’t get too crazy about this, if there’s a little skin left on, it’s ok)/ Cut off the stem end, slice in half lengthwise and remove the seeds (don’t rinse peppers in water and don’t touch your eyes during this process)/ Slice in strips or leave whole, depending on how you want to use them.
I sliced the 4 anaheims, 1 poblano and 2 Hungarian wax peppers into strips and added them to a skillet of 1 sauteed Walla Walla sweet onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic. Cooked it lightly and then added about 1/3 cup of half & half and some grated Beecher’s cheese. Wrapped in a soft flour tortilla, this made an easy meatless meal for two with some of the filling left to add to scrambled eggs or mashed potatoes later in the week.
The combo of peppers and cream was delicious so I continued along that path with a roasted pepper cream sauce for pasta. It sounds rich but was surprisingly light and perfect for a late summer evening meal.
Roasted Pepper Cream Sauce
Ingredients: 2 bell peppers, roasted (see instructions above). I used one one red and one orange, red is traditional/ 2 large cloves garlic, minced/ big handful fresh basil leaves, sliced/ 2-3T olive oil/ 1 1/2 cups half & half/ 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, more for sprinkling on top/ 2 T butter/ salt & pepper
Directions: In a large skillet, heat olive oil with garlic, basil and peppers for about 10 minutes to combine the flavors.
Remove from pan and blend in blender or food processor to desired consistency/ Return to skillet and heat until simmering/ Stir in half & half and grated cheese/ Stir in butter until melted/ Gently simmer for another 5 minutes/ Serve on pasta of your choice.
Summer is ending but peppers should be available for at least another month. Roasting is a wonderful way to try several varieties at once — mix and match. Alvarez Organic Farms has the best selection I’ve seen along with ideas for using them. Their signage will tell you what to expect in terms of heat from sweet to super-hot.