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News / Life / Food

Roasting perks up mini-peppers

By Beth Dooley, Star Tribune
Published: February 28, 2024, 6:07am

Whether it’s the Super Bowl or the Oscars, a watch party calls for finger food, a food that’s easy to serve, easy to eat and easy on the cook.

Take blistered peppers, charred over a flame or under the broiler — shishito, Padrón or those pretty mini-bell peppers. They all have a built-in handle and will add pops of color to any appetizer platter.

Roasting peppers this time of year, after they’ve made the long journey from California or Mexico, helps to perk them back up. The intense heat of a flame adds a touch of smokiness, and concentrates their sweet or hot flavors while helping to remove the pepper’s bitter skin. After they’ve just been roasted, there’s no need to transfer them to a covered container (as some cookbooks suggest you do) because they may become too soft. It’s better to let them cool, uncovered, on a plate. Then, using a paper towel, just rub and peel the skin off. It’s OK to leave a little of the char behind.

The sweet, flavorful roasted mini bell peppers are a fine match to zesty guacamole. All you need to round out the plate are good crackers, a sharp Cheddar or a salty, nutty Manchego cheese.

Make a triple batch of peppers to have on hand; their uses go far beyond appetizers. You can pack them into a jar with olive oil, cover, and store in the refrigerator for about a week. Then they’re ready to toss onto salads, top pizza and bruschetta, twirl into pasta, layer into sandwiches. Whir them into hummus, stir them into scrambled eggs, frittatas, risotto and pilafs. Make a velvety soup by puréeing them with stock and cream.

Keep these culinary chameleons on hand. Their colors and flavors will elevate any dish.

Roast Mini-Bells

Serves 4 to 6 From Beth Dooley.

2 lb. (1 bag) mini-bell peppers

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Generous pinch coarse salt

Generous pinch freshly ground black pepper

Set the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lay the peppers out on the baking sheet so they don’t touch. Drizzle them with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put them under the broiler for 3 minutes, then shake the pan. Continue to broil, watching to see that they blister, another 2 to 5 minutes. They should be charred all around.

Remove and allow the peppers to stand until cool enough to handle. Using a paper towel and your fingers, gently remove the peel from the peppers. (It’s OK if some of the charred skin is left behind.)

Zesty Guacamole

Serves 4 to 6. From Beth Dooley.

4 ripe avocados

1 small tomato, chopped

1 small red onion, finely diced

1 small jalapeño, seeded and diced (leave the seeds in for more heat)

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 cup fresh lime juice, to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit, and then scoop out the flesh, dice and transfer to a bowl. Add the tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, cumin and lime juice and mash to desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings before serving.