Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 

The brilliant colors draw the eye, the dazzling hues mesmerize, the enticing aroma present some of the garden's biggest flavors...now at the height of the season.

The main difference between bell peppers and chili peppers is the spiciness. Bell or sweet peppers are mild-flavored varieties while the spicy chili peppers all share the same family tree. These annuals hail from South America where they may be perennials in a tropical climate. Columbus brought them back to Europe from the West Indies in 1493 where they found their way into Italian roasted peppers, French Ratatouille, the Hungarian Goulash and many other ethnic concoctions.

This food group has been extensively linked to good health.You'll get wonderful benefits from all of the peppers, just different nutrient combinations. You can eat peppers when they are mature yet still green (green peppers), although the flavor and the vitamin content of peppers improve as they ripen to red, yellow or orange. It’s best to eat a variety of colors when it comes to sweet or chili peppers.  

Sweet bell peppers, Hungarian, habanero,jalapeños, tabasco, Cubanelle and the list goes on.  Melissa's Produce gives photos and nice descriptions of these members of the Capsicum family, while we give recipe ideas below.

Grilled Shrimp with Roasted Jalapeño Honey Butter

Makes 1 1/3 cups

 Smoky heat from roasted jalapeños paired with sweet honey and a kick of garlic creates a taste sensation that spikes up the flavors in butter. Try this spread on grilled shrimp, corn on the cob vegetables or brushed over grilled chicken.

  •  2 jalapeños
  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons honey

 Place the jalapeños on a heated grill or under a broiler in the oven, cook until charred on all sides, then place in a mixing bowl and cover. Let rest for five minutes. Remove the skin, ribs and seeds. Chop jalapeños into ¼-inch dice.

 Whip the butter, honey and jalapeños with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Store in an airtight container for up to one week in the refrigerator. Butter can also be frozen and used as needed.

 

These pepper fingers were made from local Cubanelle chili pe ppers

 

Cubanelle Parmesan Fingers

Serves 2

 The chili peppers or bell peppers for this recipe should be on the large size and meaty; meaning thick flesh.

  • 2-3 chili peppers, heat of your choice
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • Natural vegetable cooking spray

 Preheat oven to 425°. Cut zucchini into 3-inch sticks. Whisk an egg white in a small bowl, and add milk. Combine Parmesan, rolled oats and seasoned breadcrumbs in a separate bowl. Dip zucchini sticks into egg mixture, and then roll in breadcrumb mixture. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray, and place zucchini on sheet. Bake for 25–30 minutes or until golden brown.

 

Grilled Stuffed Jalapeños (or Baby Bell Peppers)

Makes 2 per person

 Why not take a healthy spin on deep-fried jalapeño poppers?  This festive recipe will be a big hit on the grill and save many "bad-news fried calories". The tiny bell peppers are now often found at the farmers market so you can use instead of the fiery hot jalapeños. You may want to make some for the spicy crowd and others for the colorful folks. If the grill isn’t handy, you can also broil the stuffed peppers in the oven.

  • 16 jalapeños or baby bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed, drained and blotted dry
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano

 In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except the peppers. Make a lengthwise slit down each pepper, leaving the stem intact; squeeze carefully to remove ribs and seeds. Fill each pepper with 1 tablespoon cheese and bean mixture.

 Heat your grill on one side to medium-high heat and leave the other side unheated. You will be cooking the peppers with indirect heat. Place the peppers on a sheet of aluminum foil and place on cool side of the grill. (If you have a gas grill, simply leave one of the burners unlit and this will be your cooking area.)

 Cover grill and cook for eight to 12 minutes or until the peppers have softened and the cheese has melted. Serve.

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