Cooking in the summer is nearly effortless. You have so many fruits and vegetables to choose from and so many colors. Dishes that are both pleasing to the palate and to the eye come together with almost no thought. One vegetable that should be actively sought out (and prepared for the long winter season) is the sweet pepper.
This summer a love affair began between sweet peppers and me. It started with a Ruffled Pimento Sweet Pepper that I found in the produce aisle of Bi-Rite Market. Now don't get me wrong I've always adored chile peppers and bell peppers. I'm quite liberal in my use of bell peppers, especially the red, orange, and yellow ones. But not because of their taste; my prior love affair was all about the variety of color. If a dish was lacking visual appeal, and the flavor profile wouldn't be terribly affected, in went a pepper or two.
That first sweet pepper I had this summer changed my opinion about peppers. The minute they began appearing from local farmers, I began snapping them up. In the photo above the varieties of sweet peppers shown are: (top row, from left to right) Gypsy Peppers from Jellicles Farm, Gypsy Peppers from Jellicles Farm, Jimmy Nardello Peppers from Fully Belly Farm; (bottom row, from left to right) Gypsy Peppers from Jellicles Farm, Gypsy Peppers from Jellicles Farm, Senise Sweet Peppers from Say Hay Farms, Hungarian Wax Peppers from Live Earth Farm, Italia Corno di Torro Peppers from Live Earth Farm.
I'm eating them almost daily on top of toasted Country Bread from Tartine along with avocado and tomato (a dish that I discovered when I was pregnant with Gates and craved throughout the pregnancy). We've had sausage, pepper, and potato hashes for breakfast. I've eaten sweet peppers raw from the CSA box (and so has Gates). I'm addicted and on the hunt for more ways to use sweet peppers and to have them available when the too short season ends.
Depending on when they're picked and whether it's the beginning, peak, or end of the season your peppers will have different sweetness profiles. (For a detailed discussion, see "Bell Peppers: Colors and Flavor – Is There a Difference? Plus, How to Roast a Bell Pepper" by Vicki McClure Davidson.)
Of the peppers we sampled together, the Senise Sweet Peppers were the sweetest, followed closely by the Jimmy Nardello Peppers. Next in sweetness were the Gypsy peppers. We sampled various colored Gypsy peppers, from yellow to orange to red. The yellow peppers were the least sweet and the red peppers the most sweet. After the Gypsy peppers, the next Flamingo Peppers were just a little less sweet. Our first batch of Italia Corno di Torro Peppers were mostly green (young) with some reddish tones and had hints of sweetness. The least sweet and more herbaceous in flavor were the Hungarian Wax Peppers.
Caring for Your Sweet Peppers at Home
There's conflicting information on how to store peppers. Bi-Rite Market recommends buying peppers loose and keeping them that way in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Garden Guides recommends washing your peppers, placing them in a large Ziploc, punching twelve holes to let them breathe, and then storing in the refrigerator for no more than five days. Lately I've been storing my peppers in paper bags in our crisper bins and haven't seen any spoilage between purchase and use over the week.
The one way you don't want to store peppers is simply tossing them into your refrigerator, your pepper will dry out very quickly, getting a dull appearance and a wrinkly texture. Sweet peppers should go into your refrigerator. Before placing them in the fridge, wipe them off; you don't want them to be wet. Toss them into a paper bag and then put into your crisper. In our refrigerator, peppers keep longer in our crisper bins.
Recipe: Avocado Smoothered Tartine with Sweet Peppers and Tomatoes
- Difficulty: Easy
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 1 serving if eaten as a lunch; 10 to 12 servings if eaten as an appetizer
- 1/2 cup, heirloom tomatoes (Brandywine), seeded and diced or cherry tomatoes, halved and seeded
- 3 Tablespoons, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Tablespoon, Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 slices Country bread or sourdough baguette sliced thin and toasted
- 1 avocado, peeled and lightly mashed
- 1/2 cup, sweet peppers, washed, destemmed, deseeded, and thinly sliced
- 1 to 2 ounces, Petite Basque, thinly sliced
- Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Place tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar into a jar. Seal and shake to coat thoroughly.
- Carefully spread avocado onto your toasted tartine or baguette round; you want to avoid breaking the toast.
- Add a few spoonfuls of tomatoes on top of the avocado. If your snack is going to sit for a little bit, use a slotted spoon to remove as much of the excess liquid from the tomatoes before placing on your tartine.
- Season with Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Arrange sweet peppers on top of the tomatoes in a thin layer.
- Top with thinly sliced Petite Basque. Serve immediately.
Recommended Pairing: Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc
Tomatoes make pairing this dish with a wine tricky. And, I personally wouldn't pair a Pinot Gris with just any raw tomato. There are two reasons this simple meal pairs with the subtle flavor of the Pinot Gris. First, the fresh, in season heirloom or cherry tomatoes have a better balance of sweetness and acidity than your typical supermarket tomato which is often more acidity than sweetness. (Be sure to avoid Zebra tomatoes with this pairing as they are closer to a green apple in flavor and are more tart than other tomato varietals.) Second, the nuttiness and creaminess of the Petite Basque sheep's milk cheese further reduces any acidity in the tomatoes.
The other wine that I tried with this dish was a Cultivar Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Whereas I preferred the Petit Basque a top the tartine when paired with the Pinot Gris, I preferred the tartine sans cheese with the Sauvignon Blanc. The Sauvignon Blanc was a little crisper than the Pinot Gris with a stronger finish that married nicely with the lingering sweet fruit of the peppers.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.
DISCLOSURE: I am a regular contributor to The La Crema Blog, and La Crema sponsors content on this blog. This post is not sponsored.