Consider peppers’ heat when preparing to freeze

Although I don’t grow bell peppers, I wholeheartedly endorse the roasting-and-freezing technique suggested in this week’s A Fresh Approach column for all manner of chilies.

It’s always struck me as strange that when everything else in the garden — tomatoes, eggplants, green beans, cucumbers — is on its last legs, peppers are coming into their own, plump and blushing with all the colors of fall leaves. After months of struggling in the shadows of lusher garden growth, the jalapenos reddened and the habaneros achieved their peachy-orange hue.

With dozens of chilies to deal with, I obviously could make salsa, if the tomatoes were only faring so well, that is. Pickling is another nice option, but that requires yet another go-round with all the canning equipment or dedicating some refrigerator space for the next few months to the batch. So roasting and freezing remains far and away the easiest method of preserving chilies for months down the road.

It’s super simple, as Jan Roberts Dominguez explained. The only considerations are that roasting under the oven broiler may give the atmosphere in your home a smoky smell, so turn on the kitchen fan. The other hazard, if you’re handling anything more fiery than bell peppers, is capsacin seeping through your skin, so disposable gloves can be essential.

I was reminded of this fact Monday evening as I struggled to finish peeling, seeding and freezing about a dozen poblano chilies and a half-dozen jalapenos. The latter, in my experience, were fairly mild, so I didn’t worry about protecting my hands. But one chili in the bunch was inexplicably hotter than the rest, as the heat hitting my eyes confirmed when I slit it open to remove the seeds.

As my luck would have it, I had started with the jalapenos and so had to endure burning and tingling fingers throughout my manipulations of the mild poblanos. A full day later, when I immersed my hands in hot bathwater, the tingling returned.

Jan’s suggestion of freezing the peppers flat on a baking sheet promotes layering the peppers in freezer bags. I find, though, that I can simply disperse them through the bag in one layer and skip that step.

If you’ve done your due diligence to roast garden peppers, you can also skip the first step in this recipe, adapted by the Los Angeles Times from Elway’s at the Ritz-Carlton Denver. It would be suited to any kind of sweet pepper, like the Italian sweet variety I grew this year. And if you still have garden tomatoes, those can be roasted and used in place of canned.

MCT photo

Elway’s Charred-Red Pepper Soup

4 red bell peppers

5 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 onions

3 large carrots, chopped

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar, or as desired

Heat oven broiler. Core the bell peppers and place them, skin-side up, on a baking sheet. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Broil peppers until they are well-charred but not burnt, 3 to 5 minutes depending on heat of broiler.

Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat until hot. Meanwhile, peel the onions and halve them lengthwise. Coat onions with 1 tablespoon canola oil and season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Grill onions on all sides until well-charred. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then trim off root end and coarsely chop onions.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add onions and stir around pot for a minute to soften, then add the carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, along with the garlic. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until carrots are softened slightly and garlic is aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and peppers. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes to develop flavors. Add 6 cups water and bring soup to a simmer. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, loosely cover pot and cook for 45 minutes.

Blend soup using an immersion blender or in batches using a stand blender, then strain. Add the sherry vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes a generous 2 quarts soup.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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