A perennial fixture in the produce aisle, the bell pepper is technically a colorful summer fruit that is colloquially categorized as a vegetable due to its versatile role in the kitchen. Part of the capsicum genus, which also includes the gamut of chili pepper species, the bell pepper is larger, rounder, crunchier and milder than its small, spicy relatives.
The structure and shape of bell peppers, regardless of color, is similar. A smooth outer skin protects a fresh, crunchy flesh inside. The fruit is hollow, with countless seeds clustering in the center and clinging to the white membrane along the walls. Green bell peppers feature a more bitter flavor profile. Orange and yellow bell peppers are sweeter, with the sweetest being the red pepper. The seeds are perfectly harmless to ingest, but may add a slightly bitter crunch if left inside the pepper. Most recipes will call for removing the seeds before preparation; there are a variety of simple ways to do so with just a cutting board and a knife skills. For example, if stuffing the pepper, slice across the top, or stem end, and scoop out the seeds. Or, if serving as crudites, cut the pepper into quadrants and, with your paring knife, peel off seeds along with the transparent white membrane they cling to.
The bell pepper is a wonderful side dish on its own, or a fantastic addition to any dish due to its highly malleable nature. Its fibery flesh provides a depth of texture to soups, sauces, and dips and a fresh crunch to salads and grain bowls, while the sweet flavor profile shines when added to hearty scrambled eggs or mixed in with a vegetable stir-fry. Try it stuffed with ground beef, or incorporate it into vegan or vegetarian recipes for a healthy boost. It’s excellent when grilled and served with haloumi cheese, or when sauteed with onions for fajitas. Bell peppers will keep for up to one month when marinated in olive oil and stored in the refrigerator. You may also extend a bell pepper’s shelf life for up to one year by pickling in a vinegar brine. Pick up a few of these veggies next time you’re at the market, and prepare them according to the following recipes to transform the piquant ingredient into something tasty and delicious.
PREP TIME 30 minutes
COOK TIME 1 hour
For the cous cous:
Bring water and a pinch of salt to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat. Add couscous. Stir. Cover and let steam for ten minutes, or until water is fully absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Set aside.
For the filling:
Add olive oil to a skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook until translucent, around five minutes. Add garlic and parsley and cook another minute. Add zucchini, ground beef, and another pinch of salt. Cook through, about ten minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in diced tomatoes and couscous. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the stuffed peppers:
Preheat oven to 400℉.
Slice the tops off the peppers and clean the insides. Place peppers upright in a ceramic or glass baking dish. Drizzle olive oil, salt, and pepper. Scoop filling into each pepper. Tent aluminum foil over the dish. Bake until peppers are softened and filling is hot, about 35 minutes.
PREP TIME 5 minutes
COOK TIME 30 minutes
Heat up the grill to high. Brush peppers with four tablespoons of olive oil. Place whole peppers directly onto the grill and cook for ten minutes, rotating occasionally, until charred. Remove from heat and immediately place in a paper bag to infuse the roast red peppers with a smoky flavor. Let cool for an additional ten minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper in a jar or another sealable vessel.
Peel blackened skin off roasted peppers. Core the insides and clean out seeds. With a sharp knife, cut 1/4-inch thick slices lengthwise. Place slices into jar with seasoning. Add garlic cloves and cover with remaining olive oil. Seal and refrigerate jarred peppers for up to one month.
PREP TIME 5 minutes
COOK TIME 5 minutes
Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and pulse until blended. Drizzle in oil while pulsing until smooth. If dry or crumbly, use additional oil until desired creamy consistency is achieved. Refrigerate for two hours.
Serve chilled with crackers or warm pita slices.
PREP TIME 30 minutes
COOK TIME 1 hour
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange sliced red peppers on baking sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes. Let cool, and cut bell peppers into smaller pieces.
Heat two tablespoons in a deep pot over medium heat. Add bell peppers, carrots, onions, celery, and garlic, and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add parsley, thyme, oregano, cayenne, red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Stir until combined and soft.
Add water one cup at a time. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool at least 30 minutes.
With an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth. Serve topped with fresh parsley.
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