One of my favorite vegetables comes in a rainbow of colors. Bell peppers brighten any recipe, both visually and in flavor. This versatile vegetable was one of the first vegetables explorers brought back to Europe from the New World in 1493
You can find bell peppers in green, yellow, red, orange, purple, brown and black. The colors come mostly from their maturity level. Red peppers stay on the plants for the longest time and have a sweeter, fruitier flavor. They can have twice as much vitamin C as green bell peppers and more than 10 times the vitamin A. Green peppers, on the other hand, are harvested sooner and can have a slightly grassy, bitter flavor, but are great to mix with other veggies or stuff with rice and meat mixtures.
When purchasing peppers, look for firm, shiny, wrinkle-free skin with no blemishes. Select those that are heavy for their size. Store unwashed bell peppers in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer for up to a week. Once you cut a bell pepper, it will last only a few days. I like to wrap the cut and cored pepper in a dry paper towel and store it in a perforated plastic bag.
Bell peppers can be eaten raw, in salads or with dip on a veggie platter. I serve them with hummus for a healthy snack. They hold up well on the grill, in kebabs, and are always featured in my stir-fried dishes and curries. Try dicing up various colored peppers and saute them with some onion, garlic and other summer veggies for a quick stir fry or taco topping. Also consider adding them to soups, stews and tomato sauces.
To prepare peppers, cut around the stem and gently remove it. Cut the pepper in half and clean out the core and seeds. (The white pulpy inner pieces are rich in flavor and can be eaten, but many prefer to remove them.) Then cut the pepper into desired sizes and shapes.
Chopped peppers freeze well on baking sheets in the freezer. When frozen, store in airtight freezer containers up to eight months to use in cooked recipes.
Judi Seifert is a WSU Clark County Extension Master Food Preserver. For additional recipes, food preservation and food safety information visit http://ext100.wsu.edu/clark/?p=8163. Have questions? Call MFP Helpline at 564-397-5366.
Southwest Stuffed Peppers
Source: Chef Scotty. Yield: 4 servings
1 cup brown rice
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup salsa
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large red, orange or yellow bell peppers
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup whole kernel corn, fresh or frozen
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 medium Hass avocado, sliced
2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
Combine rice, stock, salsa, cumin, chili powder and garlic in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.
Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds and pith inside the peppers.
Stir the black beans and corn in the rice and stuff into the peppers. Place in a baking dish and cover with foil. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes at 425 degrees.
Remove from oven and drizzle with lime juice. Top with avocado, onions and cilantro. Serve immediately.