Latin Twist: Roasted Bell Peppers

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Every once in a while I rediscover the merits of a particular ingredient. This, my friend, is the case with peppers and me. Right now I’m focusing on one of my personal favorites: the bell pepper.

Even a short period of time on a grill or in the oven transforms these peppers, and I’m talking primarily about the red and yellow versions,  into fragrant and sweet versions of their raw selves. Whether it’s in the oven, under the broiler, or over an open flame (the latter is my first choice!), charring the skin renders the peppers that much more succulent.

Roasted peppers Photo thanks to Sofia Markusfeld (my daughter!)

Now, my Italian aunts, who always opted for stove-top grilling, admonished me never to rinse them once they were well charred and wrinkly. They said I should put them in a bag (paper or plastic!) while they were warm, shake them to loosen the burnt bits, and then remove the charred skin and seeds by hand. Aunt Rose, Aunt Mary, and Aunt Florence all said not to run them under water (“They’ll lose flavor, honey!”).

When I visited Argentina, I remember seeing peppers roasting along with the great assortments of meats on grills in parilladas (barbecue restaurants!). I remember the grilled peppers and meat having a kind of symbiotic relationship; they shared lots of flavor with each other. In Peru I remember enjoying roasted peppers with pasta and later with quinoa…which remains one of my favorite combos. Roasted peppers can be enjoyed on their own, in a salad, or on a Cuban sandwich (another one of my first choices!). You can also purée them, with roasted garlic, olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and use the roasted pepper “chimichurri” as a condiment on pretty much everything between fresh bread and steamed fish. Por supuesto, of course, as in many cases, the sky’s the limit! Would love to hear how you use your roasted bell peppers.¡Buen provecho! Enjoy!

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About Author

Maybe it was the dinner parties my mom always threw—or the hours I spent prepping and cooking alongside her (and then on my own!). Or maybe it was array of fabulous dishes that my family sampled in New York City’s richly diverse restaurants, but I’ve loved creating, savoring, and sharing food for as long as I can remember. Living in Spain, and later in Peru, also greatly influenced my life. These years abroad taught me Spanish—and about living in different countries--but also introduced me to teaching English as a second language, which I’ve done—mostly in the US-- for the past 20-plus (yikes!) years. I’ve authored two cocktail/tapas books, Mambo Mixers and Calypso Coolers, coauthored more than 15 others (mostly food related!), and raised two children. Now I'm chef and owner of my own restaurant, Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York. My message is the same, whether I'm teaching, writing, running the restaurant or being a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo (on the morning show, Buenos Días Nueva York!). My belief in food—and the power of food—is far reaching, and is married with another one: the power of stories. I’m sure that if we could all sit down and have meals together, sharing both tastes and tales, we’d have peace on earth. Enjoy!

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