Ode to a Pepper: 5 Recipe Favorites for Spring

Today ushers in the first day of spring (and not a moment too soon), and as I look forward to warmer weather, I'm reminded of my favorite south Louisiana produce item: sweet bell peppers.  

As sticks, on salads, or between slices of buttery bread, the sweet bell pepper is a vegetarian's dream come true (clearly, I'm not a vegetarian as seen here, but I seriously love red peppers).

Here are my 5 Recipe Favorites for Peppers (featuring Louisiana's sweet, red, yellow, orange, and multi-colored bell peppers):

1 - Red & Yellow Bruschetta

red-and-yellow-bruschetta

I love the crunchy texture of this bruschetta with its freshly picked peppers.  Mix two shades of the brightest peppers you can find with thin slices of garlic, torn pieces of basil (the more the better) and a light olive oil and lemon juice dressing.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Traditionally, I serve this dish with olive-oil toasted seeduction bread from Whole Foods or good-quality baguette lopped into thick, diagonal portions.

2 - Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Roasted, marinated, and puréed red peppers brighten this take on traditional hummus with a reddish hue.  Because of the pre-infused high oil contents marinated peppers pack, you'll need less olive oil for this recipe when processing. The result? You will be graciously rewarded with light, creamy hummus.

Not only does this hummus offer a lighter-than-average dip, it's a perfect low-calorie spread for sandwiches, toast, or even (shock) vegetable sticks such as raw red peppers (which I eat with hummus anyway). 

3 - Eggplant, Tomato, & Red Pepper Pizza

Eggplant,-Tomato,-Red-Pepper-Pizza

One of my earliest experiments with vegetarian, gourmet-inspired pizza, this Eggplant, Tomato, and Red Pepper Pizza evokes the flavors of a fresh summertime crop without the weight of heavy cheese and meat.  Top with thin slices of your favorite garden vegetables, but feel free to go extra thick on those peppers.  While they cook down in the oven, the peppers will retain some of their  "crunch" in each bite.

4 - Stuffed Peppers with Spinach and Cheese

One of the reasons I was first drawn to this recipe was the idea that you could prepare a stuffed peppers dish without meat.  Sure, the rice provides the carbohydrates necessary for a filling main course, but the creamy blend of grated Parmesan and sautéed spinach makes this more than an everyday stuffed pepper.  

5 - Ratatouille 

ratatouille

It doesn't get much more provincial than a Julia Child's recipe for Ratatouille.

Again, this is an older post from Clearly Delicious, but a tried and tested one nonetheless.  I don't think it's much of a surprise that red peppers cozy up to eggplant so nicely here since the two make great summer garden friends.  For this recipe, I followed Julia's closely, making sure to arrange the vegetables in diverse layers.

For more information on cooking with peppers, I suggest you take a quick moment to see Kenji Lopez-Alt's "Knife Skills: How to Cut a Bell Pepper" at Serious Eats.

While you're there, leave a comment for the James Beard-nominee for "Cooking, Recipes, or Instruction."   

-Helana Brigman

 

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