Arron Carley, recent Chopped Canada winner and chef at The…
From now until September, it’s the summer of Ontario sweet peppers grown in the field locally rather than their cross-continent trucked-in cousins.
The term “peppers” causes some confusion: both the very hot and spicy chile peppers and the common, mild green and very sweet red “bell” pepper are from the same family, Capiscum. But depending on the variety, peppers may be very, very hot (like the ghost pepper) or almost completely without bite (or even flavour), like those you find find from California in the depths of February.
From a very early time in our history, the vegetable has been well-travelled. For instance, Christopher Columbus brought peppers from the new world back to Europe, while Portuguese explorers saw that it was introduced to India and parts of south-east Asia. There is certainly evidence that in both of these regions of the world peppers of many varieties are mainstay ingredients in a host of cuisines.
Here, the pepper, much like the summer tomato, just seems to have tons of flavour so much so that it is like tasting sunshine when you eat a fresh one from the field. The green bell pepper, of course, is the same variety as the sweet red pepper: the latter is a vine-ripened version of the former (and therefore usually quite a bit more expensive). There are also yellow, orange, purple, variegated and brown bell peppers.
Once you’ve had your fill of eating them fresh, roasting peppers directly on your barbecue creates a wonderful result that can be added to salads or eaten as part of appetizer of meats, cheeses, olives and bread. You can roast them on an open flame on your gas oven or with a torch, if winter prevents you from barbecuing.
For the outdoors, wash the peppers and place them directly on a very hot grill. Let the peppers blister and char to black, turning them regularly to get even cooking on all sides. Place them in a large bowl directly from the heat and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the peppers sit and steam until cool.
Finally, peel the blistered, blackened peppers, remove the seeds and membranes inside and place them on paper or kitchen towels to dry. Cut them in the size you prefer and drizzle with some good olive oil and enjoy their roasted pepper flavour.