Have you noticed that, as we say goodbye to summer and welcome fall, the colors in the market have changed? Suddenly I’m seeing peppers everywhere — in every color, shape, and size possible. They remind me of the brilliant colors of fall foliage that are about to appear in many parts of the country — an intense splash of welcome color as we get closer to the end of the harvest season.
There are so many varieties of sweet peppers to explore. The most obvious is the fat, round sweet bell peppers that are no longer just green, but also red, bright orange, yellow and purple-black colors. Sweet bell peppers, which belong to the Capsicum annuum, are part of the nightshade family. They are related to spicy chili peppers and can refer to a wide variety of peppers that range in color, flavor, spiciness, sweetness and fruitiness. They are generally not spicy but prized for their sweetness.
Sweet peppers are extremely healthy: They are low in calories (about 31 calories in one sweet red pepper), and very high in Vitamin C, fiber, potassium and iron. They are considered an antioxidant.
A pepper primer
Anaheim peppers are mild green chili peppers that are prized for their crunch and sweetness. They are native to California and can be stuffed or used in the classic Mexican dish, chile rellenos. They can often have a spicy kick, but also a great deal of sweetness.
Banana peppers, also called Hungarian sweets, are yellow-pale green peppers with a generally mild flavor. Their shape resembles a banana (thus the name) and are excellent chopped into rings and used pickled, sauteed, or stuffed.
Bell peppers: It used to be that you only found green bell peppers in markets, but increasingly you can discover bell peppers in bright red, orange, yellow and purple hues. These are sweet, crunchy, colorful and large peppers. They are ideal for stuffing or cutting into salads, sauces or stews. Orange, purple, and yellow peppers tend to be milder than red peppers. Green peppers sometimes have a bitter flavor, while red peppers — the sweetest variety — have a luscious, almost silky texture when roasted or grilled.
Cherry peppers or pimientos: Round, small, red peppers. This variety offers sweetness, but also has a kick of spice. They are great raw or used in pickles.
Cubanelle peppers or Italian frying peppers: These are long, thin greenish peppers that are great used raw, stuffed, pickled or sauteed.
Piquillo peppers, originally from northern Spain, are sweet chili peppers that are excellent when sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with coarse sea salt. Piquillos can vary from sweet and mild to spicy.
Poblano peppers are green peppers that can be mild or spicy, but always offer a whole lot of flavor. They are the classic pepper for many famed Mexican dishes like chile rellenos.
The following three recipes use a variety of sweet peppers in a sandwich, a pickle, and a beautiful fall salad.
These peppers have color, texture and a tremendous punch of flavor. I like to use a combination of mild, sweet, and spicy peppers, cored, deseeded and cut into strips or small pieces. It makes a beautiful presentation to alternate colors and types of peppers within the jar, layering red against green against yellow.
Serve the pickled peppers with cheeses, on salads, chopped up and added to mayonnaise or salad dressings, layered on sandwiches, or as a snack.
Makes 1 quart of pickled peppers.
- 6 peppercorns
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- About 4 to 6 peppers, combination of mild and spicy, cored, seeded and cut into ½-inch size rings*
*If you don't use spicy chili peppers you might want to add a sprinkle of dried red chili flakes.
- In a medium saucepan, mix the peppercorns, cloves, vinegar, water, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Meanwhile, place the peppers in a clean quart size mason jar or 2 pint size jars, alternating colors and types of pepper, pushing the peppers down into the jar.
- Pour the hot vinegar solution over the peppers, tightly seal, and cool to room temperature.
- Place in the refrigerator; the peppers will be ready within about three days and should last up to a month or more.
White beans with roasted peppers and anchovies
Roasted red peppers with anchovies are a classic Italian starter. Here it becomes something more of a main course or substantial side dish when served on top of sauteed white beans with garlic and fresh herbs. The anchovies add a delicious salty touch, but if you are anchovy-adverse, feel free to omit. Fresh herbs make all the difference in this dish.
Serves 2 to 4.
- 2 large red peppers, or 3 medium-sized red, yellow, or orange peppers
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon of olive oil
- 1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- One 15-ounce can white cannellini beans, drained, gently rinsed in cold water, and drained again
- About 8 anchovy filets, optional
- Roast the peppers: On an open gas flame, or a grill set over medium-high heat, roast the pepper directly over the heat. Alternatively, you can place the peppers on a sheet of foil and place directly under the broiler set on high. Grill/broil for about 3 minutes per side until almost fully blackened on all sides.
- Immediately place the peppers into a paper bag, seal and let “steam” for about 3 to 4 minutes. (This helps loosen the skin.) Remove and while still warm, use a small sharp knife or your fingers to peel the blackened skin off.
- Cut the pepper in half, remove the ribs and seeds, and cut into thin strips. Place in a small bowl or jar and top with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. The peppers can be prepared up to 3 days ahead of time.
- Make the beans: In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and half the basil, parsley, and thyme. Add the drained beans and season with salt and pepper. If using anchovies don’t use much salt in the beans. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining parsley, basil and thyme. Place the beans on a medium serving plate. Top with the roasted pepper strips and add the anchovies on top, using two filets to criss-cross into an “X” pattern. The dish can be made several hours ahead of time but should come out of the refrigerator about an hour before serving.
- Serve at room temperature.
Sausage with peppers and onions
This is a classic sandwich seen at Italian festivals and street vendors all over the country. Spicy plump sausages (or sweet ones) are grilled and topped with a combination of sauteed peppers and onions and piled onto a thick hoagie roll. I sauteed several types of peppers and onions with garlic and then splashed them with some red wine vinegar; the acidity of the vinegar wakes up the sweet pepper flavors. The mixture is topped with sauteed sweet and spicy sausages. I like to serve a warm baguette or rolls on the side. This dish is every bit as good without the roll. Dijon-style mustard or spicy grainy mustard served on the side is a must.
Serves 2 to 4.
- 2 to 4 sausages, sweet or spicy or a combination
- 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped, optional
- 1 large red pepper, cored and seeded and cut into thick slices
- 1 large Cubanelle or Italian frying pepper, cored and seeded, and cut into thick slices
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- To serve: warm rolls or a baguette or crusty bread, sharp Dijon-style or grainy mustard
- In a large heavy skillet, heat the tablespoon of oil over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes. Add the peppers, oregano, and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the peppers are soft.
- Meanwhile, place the sausage in a skillet and cover with 3/4 cup water; bring to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes, occasionally flipping the sausages from side to side.
- Drain any remaining water, add the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil and raise the heat to high. Cook the sausages for another 6 to 8 minutes, flipping from side to side, or until golden brown and cooked through.
- Place the pepper mixture onto a serving plate and top with the sausages. Serve with warm bread or rolls and mustard.
Find more ways to use peppers here:
- Click here for a recipe to make stuffed peppers
This segment aired on September 22, 2022.