One of the most useful skills I acquired this year was roasting red peppers, which was awfully convenient since I also developed a ravenous taste for the same. After paying $3 per bottle at the grocery store a few times, I was amazed to discover how remarkably easy it was to prepare them at home.
This actually isn't the first time in my life I've roasted red peppers. When I was in Italy in the early 80s, I remember roasting them over the burners of our gas range with an Italian friend who then taught me to make pepperonata, a pasta sauce with roasted red peppers as a base. I remember loving the sauce, but regretting the amount of time the tedious roasting process took.
This year I discovered that it's actually incredibly easy to roast peppers under a broiler. It can also be done on a barbecue grill, but that requires going outside, firing up the grill, turning the peppers, etc. The (very brief and simple) step-by-step instructions are below.
1. Wash the red peppers and slice them in quarters. Remove the seeds and membranes.
2. Place the peppers peeling side up so that they are as flat as possible (with as much outside surface facing upward as possible) in a baking pan. Place the pan in the oven, about 4 to 5 inches from the broiler. Broil on high until much of the surface of the peppers is blistered and black. The photo above shows a pepper that is fully roasted, although I actually probably could have left it under the broiler for another minute or so and it would have been easier to peel. On average, the roasting process takes about 10 minutes, so be patient.
3. Remove the peppers from the oven and put them in a sealable (zip top) plastic bag. This allows them to sweat so that the skin comes loose. After 10 minutes or so, remove them from the plastic bag and remove the peelings. The more thoroughly roasted the peelings, the easier it will be to remove the peel.
4. Use the peppers in any variety of dishes. I'll try to post some of my favorites here in the near future. I cook them with a chuck roast and onions to make a lovely goulash. They're also wonderful on salads or sandwiches. Add them to a tomato-based pasta sauce for a real treat.
If you want to make them more like the roasted red peppers you buy already prepared, put them in an airtight container with a little bit of olive oil--just enough to coat them. Then slice them into thin (1/4 inch) strips and enjoy!