peppers: short and sweet, or feeling spicy?

IHAVE HAD A ROW OF TINY HOT PEPPERS PINNED to my wall for years, just under the primitive still life of fruit over the dining table. I don’t know what got me started turning chiles into pin-ups, but it’s a habit that has stuck (tee hee), and every so often one becomes the zip in a pot of wintertime chili—or the start of next year’s pepper plants. The topic is…you guessed it: Capsicum annuum. Are you feeling sweet, or spicy?

Those are my faded little hot chiles (above), in case you think I’m kidding. I’ll replace them with a new shiny red set this fall, promise.

STUFFED PEPPERS (with Uncle Ben’s, chop meat, onion, Parmesan) were a staple of growing-up years, baked in Mom’s deep Pyrex casserole dish with V-8 juice as the liquid. So 1960s—and so easy and filling, right? (These days I skip the meat and use brown rice, plus pine nuts, onions and raisins, with my own tomato sauce thinned-down as the juice.)

But my go-to pepper dish is appetizer, not main: simple oven-roasted peppers that make a bowl of olives and some bread and cheese a lot more colorful, and delicious.

sugary oven-roasted peppers

Bell or Italian sweet (frying) peppers, fully ripe; assorted colors
Olive oil
Dried basil flakes
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Halve and core the peppers, removing white membranes, then cut each half into two or three wedges, depending on each fruit’s size.

Toss pepper sections in enough olive oil to coat well, and lightly coat the pan, too. Place pieces skin side down on a baking sheet and sprinkle with basil flakes. Bake until skin starts to blister and brown, then turn.

I often turn these a couple of times until the peppers get all delightfully limp and nearly caramelize.

While still warm, dust with the grated cheese (or if you prefer, skip it, and adorn later with a little chevre instead, or nothing at all).

Serve with thin rounds of lightly toasted baquette, on crackers, on sandwiches—or just between your fingers. Ultrasweet, ultra-colorful. Can be frozen, layered with plastic wrap, in containers.

freezing the harvest

SPEAKING OF FREEZING: Peppers (especially organic ones, yikes!) can be wildly expensive in winter, so while they’re plentiful, think about putting some away for use in recipes like soups, stews and chili. It’s easy:

Simply wash and core the peppers, removing the seeds and the white membranes inside, and patting dry. Either put just enough for an average recipe in each small container (rather then having to defrost a giant brick) or better yet, do this extra step:

Pre-freeze your halves or slices loose on baking sheets, then once frozen, remove from the sheet and stash in freezer bags. Produce that’s pre-frozen in pieces before packing into containers is easier to separate, when only a small amount is wanted.

(19th Century Japanese watercolor of hot peppers from Library of Congress.)

trouble growing peppers?

  • Healthy green plants, but no fruit: Cold in the early going may weaken plants, or more commonly heat later on (particularly hot, dry nights above 75, or days in the 90s) can prevent fruit set.
  • Fruit with shrunken, dark end: Blossom end rot is more common in tomatoes, but can affect peppers, too. Read about it here.
  • Pepper-growing FAQs: I love Texas A&M’s plant-growing FAQs, including this one on peppers. No frills, but wow, the information.
  1. Naseer says:

    Hi Margaret, great simple recipe! It’s not often you hear the phrase “delightfully limp.” Hilarious.

    Here’s a Green Thumb Geeks recipe that we posted earlier when the pepper harvest was booming:

    Cheddar-Stuffed Jalapeno Burger

    We may have a few more coming up in the next week. Looking forward to Fall Fest!

  2. Sarah says:

    I’m so excited that summer turns into Fall Fest! We’re big pepper lovers in our home and are enjoying them fresh as well as canning them for fall and winter hamburgers, chilis, chile rellenos, soups and stews.

    After living in New Mexico for four years for college, I fell in love with Hatch Green Chile and in this post show you how to oven roast them as well as can them for the pantry (and directions for freezing are included as well)

    And one of our favorite condiments when we eat Mexican food is jalapenos en escabeche. I make mine lacto-fermented and raw and, in the fridge, they last forever! We’re finishing a jar that I made up last year! The carrots are my favorite while the jalapenos are my husband’s:

    Thank you for hosting Fall Fest! I can’t wait to read the other participants!


  3. Deb P says:

    MR, Love short and sweet–and spicy. Also can’t wait to swap some raisins and pine nuts into my next round of retro stuffed peppers. Love summer (and soon fall)partying with you, garden girl.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Mary. Yes, the winter lies ahead…but right now we’re having another heatwave, and I am busy putting up sauces and soups and such anyhow. Phew! Nice to “meet” you.

  4. Nancy says:

    Hi Margaret!!

    Roasted peppers are a staple in this house – they were the first vegetable my youngest would eat. A few years ago when he was on his way home from Boy Scout camp I asked him what he wanted for dinner – is answer was “I don’t care as long as you have roasted peppers” – words to make a mother proud!!!!

    My contribution this week is my version of Texas Caviar

    I am not growing peppers but think I’ll try your hints on freezing them with my haul from the farmers market!

  5. I love peppers, chiles, raw, cooked, in anything! Each variety has its own particular appeal, whether it be sweetness, heat, complex flavor combinations. What would the world be like without chiles? I love, love, love chile salsas, raw or cooked. Here is one of my favorites:


    If you grow your own, don’t plant sweet peppers next to hot chiles. We learned this when the bell peppers kept company one summer with jalapeños. The bells were so hot!


  6. Ilona says:

    Peppers have always been my favorite and easiest plant to grow in the veggie garden. I love the addition of parmesan cheese to the roasted peppers idea!

    Appreciate Kathleen’s tip, which I will remember if I ever grow the hot ones. As of now, only grow the staid banana or sweet types.

  7. Kathleen says:

    Love your recipes. Must get some peppers to plant this year. Never have enough at home. I made a great grilled tuna dinner and the peppers made the dinner.

    Thanks for Summer Fest!

  8. How exciting that Summer (Fall!) Fest lives on! Great news. In the meantime, I thought it better late than never to share my round up of One Hungry Mama pepper recipes including a Red Pepper Walnut Dip, Grilled Tuna & Cubanelle Peppers w/ Olive & Caper Vinaigrette, Roasted Poblano Cream Sauce, and more!

  9. Lana says:

    I am so happy you decided to extend this event! I am enjoying so much reading and bookmarking diverse approaches to summer foods. And you got me with peppers – they are my favorite vegetable.
    I never tried preserving them whole in the freezer, but instead I kept them flavorful by roasting them, peeling them, and sealing them before freezing.
    I wrote a post on my mother’s recipe for Stuffed Battered Red Peppers. http://bibberche.com/2010/09/tintinnabulicious-these-bells-just-got-poened/

  10. Sean says:

    Thanks for the tips on growing peppers! I’m a new gardener here in San Diego and I’m having some trouble growing peppers, so I was super excited to see this post! The weather here has been fluctuating between hot and sunny or chilly and grey, and I think it inspired the plant to go on strike! The lone pepper that had set stopped growing and all of the flowers dropped. Any advice on kick starting new growth?

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Sean. Blossom drop is a common complaint with peppers, and as you know temperature is a likely culprit (a lack of water during the bloom time can also cause the problem). When nights go below 60, or days go above 80 degrees — and especially when they reach 90 degrees — blossoms will drop (on tomatoes too)., and if fruits do set in a heatwave they will be undersized or misshapen. 70 to 80 degrees during the day and in the 70s at night is ideal. If the plants are health and getting adequate water, and the weather cooperates…maybe you will get lucky! At least you don’t have frigid weather threatened like I do next week…meaning no time fo the plants to recover. See you soon again, I hope.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.