Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Roasted Red Peppers

Red bell peppers were seldom seen on tables when I was growing up.  The big green bells were most often seen baked in a tomato sauce and stuffed with a ground meat mixture.  Sometime they were also chopped into a relatively exotic dish.  But for red peppers, we usually resorted to imported canned (in jars) pimientos.  These were rarely seen either, except to make pimiento cheese.

There is a reason for this. Red peppers are a luxury.  They require a long growing period. If you grow them yourself, this is a long wait.  I typically planted the young plants around May 31 and peppers became red starting around the first of October.  Of course, if you buy them from someone else, they have had to invest water and care during that long growing period, so they are not likely to be cheap. Happily, these are now freely available in farmers' markets as well as grocery stores.  (Hint: don't buy the first ones to turn red.  The later peppers are sweeter.)  One of their best uses is as roasted red peppers.   

How to Roast Red Peppers
Cut the top off the fruit, remove inner membranes and seeds, and then cut carefully along the angles of squarish peppers, down to the tip.  Sometimes the bottom round must be cut off too.  Flatten the pieces onto a cookie sheet.  Put this on the top rack of the oven and turn to Broil.  After a time, the skin will blacken.  Remove from the oven and move all the pieces onto a plate to cool.  Using a paring knife, pull the blackened skin free of the flesh.  Sometimes an unevenly cooked portion will need to be peeled off with the blade of the knife.  Brush any particles left on the surface aside.  These can be pickled or canned, but I have found that they keep very well in ziplock bags in the freezer.  I weigh them out (usually 1/4 lb) and pop them in. (Note: the odd little scraps from trimming can either be used otherwise, or broiled and cleaned also, though this is fussy to do.)

Fresh or frozen, these add a magical touch to so many dishes and sauces. (And are wonderful on homemade pizza.)  They are essential in our house for making meatloaf.

Meatloaf with Roasted Red Peppers

 Grease a loaf pan (bacon grease, butter, or lard).  Oven is 375°.

Do not use a food processor.  Mix this with a wooden spoon and your hands. 

Mix together:
1 lb ground pork or unseasoned pork sausage
2 lb lean ground beef
1 medium onion, minced
1/4 lb roasted red pepper, chopped
2 c breadcrumbs (homemade is nice)

Now mix in:
2 eggs
1 c milk
2 T ketchup
2 T pickle relish or chowchow (I use Legacy green tomato relish.)
1 T horseradish

Mix in a cup before adding:
1 1/2 t salt
dash garlic salt
dash celery salt 
2 t hot paprika
2 t good quality chili powder

Mixture should be homogeneous and evenly mixed, but try not to over-work.

Bake 1 1/2 hour at 375°.  Meatloaf will not make a lot of extra fat or juice.

Cut into even slices to serve. It makes six slices of 1/2 lb each.


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