SUMMER SWEETS:BELL PEPPERS

Green, red, yellow, orange…bell peppers add color and a sweet kick to your favorite dishes. Thanks to a host of antioxidant ingredients (beta-carotene, lutein and xeaxanthin, and vitamin C) peppers also help protect you against heart disease, certain cancers, and vision loss. Here’s a look at some new takes on cooking with peppers…but remember to munch on uncooked peppers too…vitamin C doesn’t hold up well in the heat!

Need an excuse to try some fabulous olive oil? Monosaturated fats help make the beta carotene in peppers more bioavailable.

GOAT CHEESE WITH BELL PEPPER DRESSING (adapted from www.epicurious.com )

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup diced green bell pepper

¼ cup diced red bell pepper

¼ cup diced yellow bell pepper

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or ¾ teaspoon dried

½ teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed

¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

8 ounces chilled goat cheese, cut into 8 slices

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Baguette slices, toasted

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add all bell peppers and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add garlic, rosemary, coriander, fennel, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. Simmer mixture 5 minutes to blend flavors. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature. Arrange goat cheese slices on platter and spoon pepper mixture over. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve with baguette slices as appetizer. Alternately, place mixed baby greens on 8 individual plates. Top with goat cheese slice and pepper mixture and serve as salad course.

ROASTED RED PEPPER AND WALNUT DIP (adapted from www.foodnetrwork.com )

¾ cup pomegranate juice or 4 teaspoons pomegranate molasses

½ cup walnuts

3 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 (16-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon for garnish

Salt

Pita toasts

Put the pomegranate juice into a small saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until juice is reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool and thicken. If using pomegranate molasses, use as is without boiling and reducing first). Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, place the walnuts and bread crumbs into a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the reduced pomegranate juice or pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, red peppers, cayenne pepper and cumin and process until smooth. With processor running, add the oil in a thin stream. Season with salt to taste. Sprinkle with cumin and additional olive oil if desired and serve with pita toasts.

CHILLED ROASTED RED PEPPER SOUP (adapted from www.epicurious.com )

7 red bell peppers

1 medium onion

1 small boiling potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3 ½ cups water

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 medium tomato, peeled and seeded

Roast and peel peppers (this can be done by placing peppers on top of flame of gas burner or on grill and turning to char on all sides, or by roasting at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Placing peppers in plastic bag will help loosen skins for peeling). In heavy 5-quart saucepan, heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion, potato, and cumin and sauté 5 minutes. Add roasted peppers, water, and broth and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Puree soup in pot using immersion blender or puree in batches in food processor. Transfer to bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cool soup then place in refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours. Soup can be made 2 days in advance. Serve with lime wedges. Yields 8 servings.

ROASTED RED PEPPER VINAIGRETTE (adapted from www.foodnetwork.com )

2 roasted red bell peppers (home-made or jarred), drained and chopped

Salt and pepper

1 small garlic clove, chopped

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

Place peppers in bowl of food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and vinegar to processor. Turn processor on and stream in extra-virgin olive oil and honey. Process until smooth. Serve over lettuce or vegetables.

FETTUCINE WITH CREAMY RED PEPPER-FETA SAUCE (adapted from www.foodnetwork.com )

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 (16-ounce) jar roasted red pepper, drained and chopped

½ cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 pound whole wheat fettuccine

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic until soft, about 10 minutes. Add roasted peppers and sauté until heated through. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Place mixture in the bowl of a food processor with stock and all but 2 tablespoons of the feta. Process until combined and smooth, about 30 seconds. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta water. Toss pasta with sauce, adding pasta water by the tablespoon, if needed. Sauce should cling to pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and remaining feta cheese. Serves 6.

BELL PEPPERS BAKED WITH TOMATOES (adapted from www.williams-sonoma.com )

6 bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips

12 ounces cherry tomatoes

4-5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or thyme leaves

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, torn or finely shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large bowl, mix together bell peppers, tomatoes, half the garlic, olive oil, half the vinegar, oregano or thyme, sugar, salt and pepper. Mix well and spread out in a single layer in a large baking pan. Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes. Remove form oven and flip vegetables. Return to oven and roast until slightly charred at the edges and the tomatoes are soft and tender and have begun to form a sauce, about 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining garlic and vinegar. Let cool until room temperature. Garnish with the basil just before serving. Serves 4-6. Serve as a side dish with meat, chicken or fish, , toss with pasta, use as a condiment on a sandwhich, or serve with goat cheese as an appetizer.

ROASTED BELL PEPPER HALVES STUFFED WITH BULGUR AND SPINACH (www.epicurious.com )

3 red bell peppers, 2 large and 1 small

2 large yellow bell peppers

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 cups water

1 cup coarse or mdium bulgur

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup dried currants

2 tablespoons pine nuts

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 6-ounce bag fresh baby spinach leaves

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 cup crumbled feta cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut peppers in half through stem end. Remove seeds and cut out ribs, leaving stems intact. Finely chop small red pepper and set aside. Spread 1 tablespoon olive oil over rimmed baking sheet or spray with cooking spray. Place pepper halves cut side down on prepared sheet and roast 15 minutes. Turn over and roast until softened slightly, about 15 additional minutes. Remove peppers from oven. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups water to boil in medium saucepan. Add bulgur and 1 teaspoon salt. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand until bulgur is tender, about 30 minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped red pepper and sauté about 3 minutes. Add currants and pine nuts and sauté 2 more minutes. Add cumin; stir 20 seconds. Mix in spinach and stir until beginning to wilt, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in bulgur, mint, and dill. Stir in half of cheese. Divide bulgur mixture among pepper halves. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until heated through, about 25 minutes. Serves 4 as main dish.

SEA BASS WITH SPICY ROASTED BELL PEPPER SAUCE (adapted from www.epicurious.com )

1 ½ pounds red bell peppers

½ cup almonds, toasted

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 (6 ounce) sea bass fillets or other mild white fish

Char bell peppers over gas flame or under broiler until blackened on all sides. Let cook in closed paper bag for 10 minutes. Peel and seed peppers. Place peppers in processor. Add almonds, 4 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, tomato paste and cayenne pepper. Process until almonds are finely ground and peppers are almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper and sauté until just opaque in center, about 5 minutes per sides. Top each fillet with sauce and serve. The sauce also makes a great pasta sauce or appetizer dip!

TROPICAL FRUIT SALSA WITH JALAPENO AND BELL PEPPERS (adapted from www.epicurious.com )

1 red bell pepper, seeded, diced

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, diced

¾ cups ½ inch pieces peeled papaya

¾ cups ½ inch pieces peeled pineapple

½ medium red onion, diced

2 ½ tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons jalapeno jelly ( or 1 tablespoon sugar)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium jalapeno chili, seeded and minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Hope you enjoy the recipes… Remember that including both cooked and raw bell peppers in your diet will help your body take advantage of all of the antioxidants this tasty treat has to offer! Stay tuned for our next feature, Some Like it Hot: Cooking with Hot Peppers. By the end of August you could be a pepper pro!

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