With global food logistics and the expansion of greenhouses in shorter harvest growing regions making it so much easier to have fresh produce year-round, it’s not too difficult for most consumers to acquire, say, bananas or citrus fruit in February. But there’s something to be said for a fresh, locally-grown, juicy and flavourful garden harvest, and to me, nothing beats washing the dirt off a fruit or vegetable that is still warm from the sun, grown in your own backyard.
However, it’s still a bit early for most crops where I’m located, so I make do with what I can get; I try hard to find and develop recipes that will wring the most out of whatever produce I’m trying to use up at the time. Today, it happens to be bell peppers. As a note, in general, bell peppers are usually available year-round, but local supply is the most abundant and best-priced in the Northern Hemisphere from July through November.
I’m currently slightly awash in peppers; I bought some from the grocery store, I’ve received some gorgeous greenhouse grown red peppers in my local organics box, and I have one or two leftover from a Costco run I did three(!) weeks ago — disturbingly sturdy, those ones are, but they’re not immortal, so I think I’d better use them up before they become ZombiePeppers in my crisper and try to take over the kitchen.
There are four ways I know of to preserve peppers: Freezing, Drying, Pickling, and Roasting. There’s actually a fifth, which is freeze-drying, but I don’t have a freeze dryer nor does anyone I know. There are home-user versions of freeze dryers out there but until they become a little more affordable for the common consumer, I’ll just stick with the four methods below:
Freezing: it’s simple and easy to prep peppers in strips and cubes for freezing until you need them, and I do this often; however, keep in mind that the defrosted peppers don’t return to their originally fresh state, which can make it challenging if you’re looking for the properties of a fresh pepper.
Drying: you can also dry pepper strips, chunks and slices, using a dehydrator or low oven; again, their reconstituted states vary wildly from when they were fresh.
Pickling: you can preserve peppers by pickling them in a brine (vinegar) solution. You can also marinate roasted peppers in oil (see recipe in “Roasting” below).
Roasting: this one is a bit of a cheat really, as the mere act of roasting the pepper doesn’t preserve it, and you will need to either pickle the roasted peppers (see above) or marinate them (submerge them in oil) in order to keep them from going bad.
In my own research as to what to do with my bounty while they’re still fresh, I’ve rounded up a number of recipes culled from my own files or some really awesome recipes from other websites that celebrate the humble pepper in many forms. I even found some desserts(!) that can be made with bell peppers, though I’m not sure how brave I am to try more than one or two of these. Comment below if you have tried any of the listed recipes or similar, and let me know how it was.
In any case, I thought I’d “share the wealth”, recipe-wise, for those who may also be trying to clean out their refrigerator crisper drawers in anticipation of fresh spring produce. Today peppers, tomorrow THE WORLD!
…or maybe I should first just use up these sweet potatoes languishing in my crisper (AKA Where Veggies Go To Die)…but that sounds like notes for a different post.
- Roasted Red Pepper, Spinach, and Feta Triangles – by The Berlin Lunchbox
- Roasted Pepper Cornbread – by serious eats
- Roasted Bell Pepper Savory Loaf – by My Parisian Kitchen
- Red Pepper Latkes – by the Los Angeles Times Food section
- Marinated Roasted Peppers – by She Loves Biscotti
Soups and Stews:
- Roasted Cauliflower and Red Pepper Soup – by Two Peas and their Pod
- Roasted Pepper and Butternut Squash Soup – by Naturefresh Farms
- Corn, Potato, and Bell Pepper Soup – by Ricardo
- Stuffed Pepper Soup – by Cooking Classy
- Beef Chili Con Carne (and a vegan version too)
Entrees and Casseroles:
- Spicy Black Beans with Bell Peppers and Rice – by epicurious
- Italian Sausage and Pepper Strata – by The Food Network Kitchen
- Cheese Topped Harvest Vegetable Bake – by Dairy Farmers of Canada
- Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Frittata – by Budget Bytes
- Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers
- Veggie Stuffed Pizza
Salads, Dressings and Dips:
- Orzo Salad with Roasted Peppers, Spinach and Feta – by Valerie’s Kitchen
- Avocado Bell Pepper Salad – by Wholefully
- Roasted Red Pepper Dip