Peeling peppers poses problems

October 07, 1998|By Rob Kasper

THE GREEN BELL peppers in my garden are behaving like guys and gals who refuse to leave a good party. Long after almost everyone else has said "adios," they are still hanging around, going strong.

One morning this week I went out to my garden in Druid Hill Park. The tomatoes were wilting, the summer squash had stopped blooming, the eggplant seemed to be slowing down. But the green bell peppers were still going at it.

I picked a handful and took them home, promising myself that this time I would do right by them.

Lately I have been experiencing some green pepper guilt. Earlier in the year I bought several green pepper plants. I nurtured them, watered them and watched them grow. Then when they began to bear fruit, I proudly carried the bell peppers home.

Then I virtually abandoned them. I tried to think of ways to use the green peppers, but few of the proposed dishes I found in cookbooks appealed to me.

The trouble was that most of these dishes required you to peel the cooked peppers, and that, I found, was almost more trouble than it was worth.

I know why the cookbooks prefer peppers that shed their skins. Skinned green peppers are one hundred times sweeter than those that have kept everything on. But peeling the skin is laborious.

I tried the tricks that are supposed to coax peppers into easily dropping their skins. I roasted them on the barbecue grill, then shook the charred peppers in a paper sack.

According to one theory, when you shake roasted peppers in a sack, the peppers drop their skins faster than sunbathers on a remote Mediterranean beach shed their swimming suits. But in my experience, the shaken peppers are extremely reluctant to disrobe. For instance, one night when I looked at the half a dozen peppers I had roasted on the grill, they reminded me of turn-of-the-century Coney Island bathers. They were covered in black from top to bottom, and they seemed unlikely to take anything off.

Every once in a while, I would gather my patience and a sharp knife and strip the outer skins of the roasted peppers. These denuded peppers tasted terrific when I put them on a grilled Italian sausage sandwich.

But often I would lose heart and fail to give the roasted peppers the proper attention. One evening I took the lid off my kettle cooker and was faced with six blackened forms. They were the remains of some extremely charred green peppers. The night before I had put these peppers on the grill and had abandoned them. I was shaken. I had known those peppers when they were mere nubs. I had watched them grow. And now I had turned them into cinders. I felt awful.

So the other day when I brought home a handful of October peppers, I resolved to treat these latecomers better than I had their predecessors.

Once again I reviewed the green-pepper literature. This time I found a recipe that might stop me from neglecting my green peppers.

This recipe calls for peeled green peppers, but it recommends doing the peeling before the peppers are cooked, when they are easier to handle. Moreover, it suggests that you use a vegetable peeler, an easy device to operate, to remove the skins. No artful knife work is required.

This dish, called sweet and sour green peppers, promises to produce a quick appetizer, without painful pepper peeling. It could be just what the psychiatrist ordered to relieve my late-season green pepper guilt.

Sweet and Sour Green Peppers and Red Onions

Makes 4-6 servings

3/4 pound green bell peppers

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon sugar

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 medium red onion, sliced thin

Peel green bell peppers with a swivel-bladed peeler, core and cut the peppers into strips.

Place the pepper strips in a large nonstick skillet, pour 1 tablespoon olive oil over the peppers and stir to lightly coat. Cook over moderately high heat for 5 minutes to lightly brown, stirring often.

Add the water, salt, sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil, and transfer contents of the skillet to a serving dish. Mix the onion with the warm peppers, drizzle with the remaining olive oil, stir to evenly distribute the onions and cool. Serve at room temperature.

- From "Red, White & Greens," by Faith Willinger (HarperCollins, 1996)

Pub Date: 10/07/98

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