Thursday, July 7, 2011

How To: Roasted Red Peppers + Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Can we roast some red peppers today?

Okay. . . Maybe not today, it's kind of hot outside today, but definitely keep this one in your back pocket the next time you need a new flavor to pump up dinner. The flavor of roasted red peppers is intense and peppery and fruity without the heat of smaller varieties of peppers. Also, because the flesh of the peppers softens when roasted, roasted red peppers have a million uses, like in pasta sauce or soup or chopped up in chili or stew for added depth. They're also great in salads, salad dressings and sandwiches.

Or maybe in red pepper hummus? Yeah. Stay tuned.

Last week I sent Sparky to the grocery store to pick up a few things, including one red bell pepper. Well, homeboy came back with five of the most giant red bell peppers I’ve ever seen. Uh, yeah, honey, that’ll be enough peppers. Thank you! 
So the week wore on and by last Thursday , four of the five peppers were still sitting in my fridge. Since we were planning on taking off for the long weekend, there was only one solution if I didn’t want them to spoil while I was gone.

So! Let’s roast some red peppers. First things first, cut your peppers in half, and pull out the membranes and seeds. Then, on a foil-lined baking sheet (I used leftover parchment paper, don’t be like me), flip them skin-side up and use the palm of your hand to give them a press so they lie flatter. More flatly. You get the picture.

Stick ‘em under the broiler in your oven on high. Don’t wander off, okay? That broiler’s hot, and you need to keep an eye on things. 

I should mention that yes, if you do this in your kitchen and your exhaust isn’t awesome (like mine’s not) you’re going to create some smoke. If you don’t want to create smoke (or heat up your kitchen by broiling) you could also use your grill. 

In either case, the point is to roast the peppers until the skins blacken.  

Hello, flavor. 

Depending on your oven (or heat of your grill), this’ll can take anywhere from 4-7 minutes. Just keep a close eye on them, and don’t get nervous and pull the peppers out early. You want those skins pretty charred.


Now, while they’re still piping hot, use a pair of tongs to remove the peppers to a bowl and tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap. You could also use a ziploc bag, if you’re inclined. The point here is that the steam from the peppers will help the blackened skins to loosen from the flesh of the peppers. Leave the bowl to sit for a few minutes, and then, it’ll be really, really easy to . . .

. . . just peel the blackened skin from the pepper. They won’t all come off in one neat sheet like that, you might have to fuss over some more than others, but for the most part, the pepper skins should peel right off. And when you’re done with that, you’ll be left with something magical. 

Hello, flavor. Gosh, you’re pretty. You can hang out at my house anytime you want.
Congratulations! You’ve just roasted some red peppers! Sure, you could’ve bought them at the store, but a competent cook like you can save a few pennies by doing this sort of thing at home.

So what do you do now? Well. . .

Remember those crackers I made last week? This is what I served them with – a roasted red pepper hummus that I whipped up in my food processor in about two minutes flat. Dip made with chickpeas, sesame and roasted red peppers is about as diet-friendly as dips come, but with a creamy, blended texture and the burst of savory-sweet pepper flavor in each bite, it doesn’t feel like you’re sacrificing. 

Check after the jump for the hummus recipe, storage options for your roasted peppers and some links to other roasted pepper recipes around the web!

Storage: You could cover the bowl with plastic (after it’s cooled) and keep it in your fridge for a day or two. Or, if you want to keep them a little longer than that, you can do what I did, and use a sterilized jar (for me, an empty olive jar that I ran through the dishwasher on the hottest setting) and pack the peppers in some olive oil. Because the oil coats the peppers and seals out air, they’ll last longer. Not to mention, when you’re done with the peppers you’ll end up with some pepper-flavored olive oil for salad dressings or marinades. I’m a big fan. For even longer-term storage, they’ll freeze nicely if well-sealed.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup tahini*
1 cup chopped roasted peppers (drained, if you’re using jarred)
½ tsp chipotle chili powder
½ tsp salt, or to taste
1-2 tbsp sesame oil or olive oil 

Hummus is extremely easy to make; the process is basically add all the ingredients into your food processor and buzz it until it’s the consistency you desire. If you don’t have a food processor, you could use a blender in a pinch. If you don’t have a blender, you could feasibly use a mortar and pestle or even just mash everything with a fork, but listen, I got my tiny 2-cup food processor at the grocery store for $13, and even if I have to do things in batches, it still works. 

Firstly, reserve the oil until the end, and use as needed if the hummus is too dry to blend properly. If it’s still too dry after you add the oil, you can dribble in a few teaspoons of water, but be careful: the peppers with release more moisture as they sit, which will make for a watery dip if you thin it out too much in the beginning. 

Second, if you want your hummus completely smooth, blend all the ingredients at once. If, like me, you prefer to have small bits of red pepper remaining in your dip, blend everything else then add the peppers last and buzz them a few times until it looks good. 

This dip tastes best after it’s rested in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, so all the ingredients can get friendly. 

Make this for nibbles the next time you have people over for cocktails on the patio this summer, and serve with crackers, pita wedges or some chopped up vegetables.  

*Tahini is sesame paste, and is mainstream enough that it’s stocked in most major grocery stores…but it seems to be located in a different place in each one. Check near the peanut butter and other nut butters, and ask a stockperson if you can’t find it. If you don’t have tahini, you can still make this dip by substituting ¼ cup sesame oil, or you can make your own tahini with sesame seeds… but more on that in another post soon.  

Roasted peppers around the web:

+ Roasted Red Pepper Pasta (tried and tested, delish)


+ Black Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Soup (bookmark’d for the fall)

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