I have been reaping the benefits of David’s vegetable garden this past week. It’s the end of the season when the plants are starting to shut down. Right now the peppers are doing what they are supposed to; turning from deep green to red. Just like the trick that autumn leaves do, the blue-green chlorophyll “blood” of the pepper fades away to reveal its true nature; pure red. Pure red + blue-green equals deep-growth-green. Try mixing that color with paint sometime.
That pure red is an indication of high concentrations of beta carotene, the vitamin A anti-oxidant that promotes health in the body. Most of us, including native Americans from long ago, know that peppers also contain high concentrations of vitamin C along with health essential minerals which is why I like to eat them in the winter as they did dried & ground, when the body needs those compounds most.
I like to preserve my peppers by roasting them and freezing them. Roasting peppers allows the skin to slide right off and imparts that smoky flavor which I find deepens and rounds out the notes of any dish I want to prepare. There is something so satisfying about those fleshy slabs of fiery goodness, easily thawed out, on a sandwich or chopped into a soup/salad or pureed with cream for a sauce… Sure I could buy them flown in from Chili all winter long but there is something wonderful about stocking my larder with my own.
Heres how I do it. First I wash the peppers then put them directly over a high gas flame on my cook-top supported by an old metal vegetable steaming basket. This also works under a broiler in the same way.
When they are thoroughly blackened, throw them in a bowl and put one of your cooking pot lids on top and let them steam in there for 10 to 20 minutes. When you take them out the skins will be all crinkled and when you run them under water they will just slide off. De-seed them in the rinsing process then slice in half and freeze on a cookie sheet. When frozen slide them into a freezer back and save for winter. They chop and slice quite well when frozen which makes it REAL easy.
Dried and ground peppers also contain health essential nutrients. In fact, what ever properties they maintain fresh only become more concentrated and beneficial dried. Hot peppers also contain capsasium, a colorless phenolic compound, that gives them their heat. This heat is also beneficial to the body; it dialates blood vessels allowing more oxygen into the tissue – more oxygen promotes corrective and rapid cell regeneration. This casasium is used in medicines for its analgesic effect on the skin and has been for centuries.
Tonight I stuffed some of my roasted peppers. I did a pan mix of Trader Joes cous cous, lentils and quinoa with sautéed fresh sweet corn from my neighbor Cindy’s farm stand and sweet red onions. I grated a little organic white cheddar into the mix then stuffed the peppers. I place them in a baking dish with about 1/2″ of my garden tomato sauce (any marinara would do) then topped it with a low-fat bechamel sauce accented with granulated garlic. Oh boy.