Roasted bell peppers: how to roast, skin, store and use them

     

    Roasted bell peppers

     

    Time:         prep. 5 mins
                       roast. 10-30 mins
    Difficulty:  easy
    Yields:       2 portions
    Cost:          low

     

    Roasted bell peppers are one of my favorite side dishes, without a doubt.
    Fortunately, being in Calabria, South Italy now at this time of year, I can continue to enjoy them for at least another month. At the farmer’s market in the town where I have been staying since the beginning of September, the only vegetables available for purchase are eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce/arugula, onions, potatoes, cabbage and squash. So far from complaining about the absence of varieties, I am filling up on the icons of the summer already gone.

    Bell peppers are good for your health

    Bell peppers are very good for health; because they are rich in vitamins (A, C, B2, B3, B6, B9, E and K), minerals (calcium, iron, potassium, manganese) and antioxidants (beta carotene, phenolic compounds and flavonoids)[1].
    In particular, bell peppers are one of the vegetables with the richest content of vitamin C[2]; but the same is true for vitamin A: 80 g of raw peppers contain about 50% of the daily requirement.
    In addition, the variegated range of antioxidants help destroy free radicals, a known threat for the well-being of the individual.

    Curiosity

    Red peppers are the ripened green ones; but it is when they turn red that they reach the highest beta carotene content!
    The yellow ones, on the other hand, are poorer in it: next time you go to the market keep this in mind

    To benefit from their rich properties, do we have to eat them raw?

    Certainly they are much more nutrient-dense when raw, due to the obvious consequence of the heat treatment to which roasted bell peppers are subjected.
    There is a hypothetical 25% average drop in its Vit C content when cooked (any type of cooking); the same drop is also noted for molecules with antioxidant actions.
    However, the effect of different cooking methods is also different: in fact, thanks to specific scientific studies, we can state that in order to maintain the least altered nutrient profile possible, it is necessary to opt for a quick stir-fry or roasting the peppers for a maximum of 5-10 minutes[3].

    Tips and considerations for roasting peppers

    Great when raw or stewed in a pan, when peppers are roasted they are able to impart a greater intensity to the palate.
    Of all the ways to roast peppers, my favorite is to barbecue them.
    However, it must be said that coals, for a variety of reasons, are not frequently used (see here for all the tips for a healthy barbecue), and therefore it is not a problem to discuss as long as there is another equally tasty way to roast peppers: directly on the gas stove flame!
    Exactly as I suggested for eggplant mezze, cooked directly on the stove, bell peppers cook in no time at all, bringing back the smoky flavor of a classic barbecue, but without all that extra work (lighting and cleaning) of the barbecue; plus eliminating the problem of waste (who among you can calculate the right amount of charcoal needed for your food?) and with less environmental impact.
    At the same time it also becomes a very viable solution for those who cannot turn on the oven (for example, where I am living now in a rental flat, the kitchen is not equipped with an oven) or do not want to use it (30 minutes of cooking time, in case you only have to cook roasted bell peppers, would definitely be a waste of resources and money). Remember, however, that if you plan to bake a perfect bread, cook vegetables and/or some other delicacies with which to pamper the family, by no means forget to roast the bell peppers as well: the advice is clearly, if not especially, valid for those who own the induction cook-top

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    Ingredients for roasted bell peppers

    2 bell peppers
    some drops of extra virgin olive oil for the tray (in case of baking)

    Directions for different methods of roasting bell peppers

    For oven-roasted bell peppers you just need to turn on and set the oven to 200 degrees and lay the washed and dried bell peppers on a baking sheet: bake for about 25-30 minutes, turning them halfway through cooking.

    Pros

    – Apart from flipping them 1-2 times, this is a really easy method to manage;
    – Nothing gets dirty but the baking sheet;
    – Perfect for big families;

    Cons

    – The baking time is very long: given the skyrocketing cost of energy, you can’t turn on the oven as carelessly as before and, let’s face it out of the way, it shouldn’t have been done before either!
    – Long baking time greatly decreases the amount of nutrients, as pointed out by the research already mentioned[3].

    For roasting bell peppers on a gas stove, first wash and dry the peppers and turn on the gas to high.

    roasting bell peppers on the stove top

    Lay the peppers on top of burner grate, turning them often (please use tongs to hold them). When you see the skin blackening evenly on all sides, after about 6 to 7 minutes, you can consider them ready to be peeled.

    Pro

    – Very fast cooking allows you to maintain an excellent level of nutrients;
    – Short cooking saves on energy while having a smaller environmental impact;
    – Perfect for small families or singles;

    Cons

    – You get the cook-top dirty, and cleaning it is not always quick and easy -I suggest using this method when the cook-top already requires deep cleaning, not when you have just cleaned it;
    – Direct contact of food with fire can cause the formation of carcinogenic molecules; a fact that actually affects in particular meats[4] and/or fatty foods cooked over a wood or charcoal fire (read more here).
    Besides, the charred parts, are normally removed: no one would love to eat charcoal bell peppers; on the contrary, charred meat is a must for many, although everybody knows that it is dangerous.
    So the direct cooking of vegetables over the gas flame in case the room is well ventilated and, more important, does not become a food routine, does not pose you any greater risk than french fries or breakfast toast[5,6].

    Let’s get on with prepping.
    Once the bell peppers are cooked, they need to be peeled.
    The skin contains a good amount of antioxidants, nevertheless all that glitters is not gold: the outer skin of peppers is very tough and fibrous, and the human body cannot digest it completely (in order to assimilate functional molecules, you have to digest them first); this can cause stomach upset or bloating in some people. But don’t worry about the “loss” of nutrients, you may compensate by squeezing half a lemon on your roasted and well-peeled bell peppers.
     

    How to skin roasted bell peppers

    To do this job “painlessly,” I recommend placing them while still hot inside a paper bag (plastic would be fine too, but better to keep it away from hot food) and close it tightly. After about 10 minutes, you should see that you can remove the skin easily.
    Take out the roasted bell peppers from the paper bag to peel one by one, not forgetting that over-cooling would make things worse!
    Also remove the seeds and the cap at this stage.
    But under no circumstances wash them under running water so as not to eliminate the much desired smoky aroma. Instead, use wet hands to remove black spots and some kitchen paper or a dishcloth to pat further.
    Now you are ready to use them as you wish.

     

    How to use roasted bell peppers

    Personally, I love them as a salad, dressed with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and a clove of garlic. Very tasty side dish to accompany main courses such as quinoa meatballs with Mediterranean heart, or to an excellent chickpea flatbread (farinata in Italian).
    Otherwise you can prepare a vegetarian filling with what you have at home (stale bread, boiled potatoes, cheese, boiled legumes, vegetables, olives, capers, garlic, onion, spices, whatever) with which to stuff roasted bell peppers.
    Or create a puree with which to season a first course with character.
    Or store them in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a few months.
    Whichever you choose, you will undoubtedly enjoy a magnificent tasty revolution

     

    Bibliography
    1) Yazdizadeh Shotorbani N, Jamei R, Heidari R. Antioxidant activities of two sweet pepper Capsicum annuum L. varieties phenolic extracts and the effects of thermal treatment. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2013 Winter;3(1):25-34. PMID: 25050256; PMCID: PMC4075694.
    2) Vanderslice JT, Higgs DJ, Hayes JM, Block G. Ascorbic acid and dehydroascorbic acid content of food-as-eaten. J Food Compos Anal. 1990;3:105–118.
    3) Hwang IG, Shin YJ, Lee S, Lee J, Yoo SM. Effects of Different Cooking Methods on the Antioxidant Properties of Red Pepper (Capsicum annuum L.). Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2012 Dec;17(4):286-92. doi: 10.3746/pnf.2012.17.4.286. PMID: 24471098; PMCID: PMC3866734.
    4) Melo A et al. (2008). Effect of Beer/Red Wine Marinades on the Formation of Heterocyclic Aromatic Amines in Pan-Fried Beef. J Agric Food Chem 56(22):10625–10632.
    5) Vattem, Dhiraj A., and Kalidas Shetty. “Acrylamide in food: a model for mechanism of formation and its reduction.” Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies 4.3 (2003): 331-338

     

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