By Judith Dunbar Hines
For Sun-Times Media
As hard as it may be to accept, it is time to put the garden to bed. The first frost in our area is generally between October 1 -15 and things like tomatoes, peppers and squash need to be pulled up.
If your garden is like mine, there are plenty of peppers still clinging to those bushes; most of them have turned beautiful shades of red. And if you are wondering what to do with all that bounty, wonder no more.
During the winter I lean on bottled red peppers for a bit of color in soups and salads. I know I could roast and put them up myself, but it’s such a pain to char and then peel them, it seems hardly worth the effort. Here’s a solution – roast them, covered, peel on. Store in jars or plastic bags in the freezer and you’ll have a supply for the winter.
Use some red bell peppers for their familiar flavor, but add any of the others in your garden – banana, jalepeno, shishito, whatever you have. Balance the spicy ones with the not-so-spicy, and mark the packages with spice level clearly so there are no surprises later.
Add fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme and basil and slivers of garlic. Use a heavy enamelware dutch oven with a cover. Roast with a gentle stir once or twice until they all have softened but are still bright colored.
After roasting, measure into freezer containers. To make a delicious pepper soup, puree peppers with some broth or cream to reach the consistency you like, decorate with a swoosh of sour cream and a garnish of fresh herbs. Or chop finely and add to plain yogurt or mayo for a dip. Use for bruschetta. Stir a spoon full of chopped peppers into a meatloaf or drop into a hearty stew.
Summer 2014 may be gone, but not forgotten.
LOCAL ATTRACTION features the best of regional produce and products and hopes home cooks will do the same.
Judith Dunbar Hines is a cooking teacher, tour guide, writer and culinary consultant in Chicago www.judithdunbarhines.com
Makes about 5 cups
1 ½ pounds red bell peppers ( approximately 4)
1 ½ pounds assorted peppers – banana, shishito, jalepeno, etc
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
5 – 6 cloves garlic, peeled and split
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Seed peppers, removing ribs.
Cut into approximately 1” – 2” cubes and place into cast-iron dutch oven.
Add oil, garlic, herbs and spices.
Cover tightly and bake at 325º for 1 ¼ hours or until all peppers are soft.
Let cool well.
Use within 1 week or freeze up to 6 months.
•Spoon onto toasted bread for bruschetta
•Puree and add enough cream to make a soup; garnish with fresh herbs & crème fraiche
•Combine with mayo, yogurt and/or sour cream to use for a dip
•Coarsely chop and add to meat loaf or other casseroles or salads
Adapted from REAL SIMPLE Sept 2014