When sweet peppers are piled into glossy heaps at farmers markets, thatís the time to bargain with the grower for a bagful--or even a bushel. Itís also the time to pull out the backyard grill for a session of roasting.
All sweet peppers can be roasted--green, yellow, orange, purple--but fully ripe, red ones have the sweetest, most intense flavor. And anything a sweet pepper can do, a roasted red pepper can do better: provide the base for appetizers, accent salads and sandwiches, pump up soups and pastas. Sun-soaked and fire-kissed, they also freeze beautifully, extending your epicurean bargain into the off-season.
Blackening peppers feels counter-intuitive at first, or like youíre getting away with a small crime. But you only need to blister their outer surface, which imparts caramelized flavor as it loosens the skin from the inner flesh. The most toastiness comes from an open flame, but a gas flame works, too, either on the stove-top or under the broiler. (You can do one pepper at a time, skewered on a long fork, or several at once on a grill grate or broiler pan.) Whatever your heat source, turn the peppers occasionally and allow them to blacken evenly all around.
Many cooks close the now-deflated globes inside a paper sack; steam produced within makes the skin easy to peel off with your fingers. But you can also rest the peppers on a cutting board and lightly scrape off their skins with a sharp knife. (Donít worry about getting every bit of char off the flesh; a little of it is delicious and distinguishes your hand-roasted beauties from peppers that come in jars from the store.) Next, pull out the cores, rake out the seeds, and toss the pepper sections with a little olive oil. Place them in freezer bags or small cartons with tight-fitting lids, and youíre good to go.