Photo by Mark Kane
The Sweet Peppers
Not so long ago, peppers were modest, marble-sized berries, the fruits of a tender annual (Capsicum annuum) in the nightshade family (with cousins like eggplant and tomato). Then gardeners and seed companies bred the plant for bigger fruit and the little pods grew forty-fold larger, lost their fire and now we have a whole family, the sweet peppers, in many colors and shapes -- red, orange, yellow, green; blocky (the bell peppers) or long and narrow, almost like carrots."
The sweet peppers are not truly sweet. The name mainly distinguishes them from the flaming family of peppers that are used in cooking for their heat. Many happy eaters, who relish more heat than I, swear that they love hot peppers for their flavor, which is apparently delicious. I’m not skeptical but I’d like somebody to describe the flavors that I can’t taste when my mouth is on fire. Please.
Roasting peppers, like roasting many vegetables (zucchini, carrots), makes them sweeter by driving away their moisture. You can roast them under a broiler or over a gas burner (you don’t really need a grill, but that’s handiest). You have to turn them now and then so you don’t scorch one side. I prefer low temperatures so the flesh has time to really steam and cook soft. When well roasted, a pepper is limp, with a blistered skin. Run cold water on the pepper while your rub and peel off the skin, then pat dry with a towel and cut out the seeds. When done well, a roasted pepper is definitely sweet, with an appealing flavor free of the pucker in fresh peppers.
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