Seeing Red: Cooking with Color

red bell pepperAs the saying goes, we eat with our eyes first. Our meal is more appetizing when the food looks pretty on the plate. Using bright vibrant colors helps with this, but here’s the best thing about cooking with color: it’s healthy for us!

Red bell peppers are one of my favorite reds to use in recipes. They can be stuffed and used as a main course, or sliced and thrown in a salad, grilled on the BBQ, roasted or used in sauces.

Bell peppers have a recessive gene for capsaicin, the plant chemical responsible for the heat in other peppers. This is the reason they aren’t hot like the others. One cup of sliced raw red bell pepper has 29 calories, 2 grams of fiber and it’s packed with nutrients including 58 percent of our daily value of vitamin A and 156 percent of our daily value of vitamin C.

When choosing your bell peppers at the grocery store, look for ones that feel heavy for their size. Make sure the skin doesn’t have any wrinkles and is firm. Skip over the peppers that have bruises, sunken areas, cracks and slashes or black spots. Store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and they should last for about a week.

As delicious and crispy as bell peppers are raw on their own or served as part of a crudité, roasting peppers intensifies them and adds a layer of smokiness. Roasting peppers, as you would red peppers for my Easy Sofrito Sauce in this recipe for Huevos Sofritos from Flavor First, is relatively simple.

Roast the whole bell pepper under a broiler or over a gas flame, turning occasionally, until you see the skin blister and notice the degree of char you want (5 to 10 minutes over an open flame). Place in a bowl and cover with a lid (or put the pepper in a paper bag), and allow the steam to loosen the skin. When it’s cooled enough to handle, carefully peel away the skin and remove the seeds.

© Cheryl Forberg 2016