Pick A Proper Pepper

What vegetable can sit upright in the palm of your hand, is a shiny, clean-looking green and tangy when immature, then a gorgeous shade of red and sweeter when mature? Or maybe you know it in its brightly colored yellow, orange, purple and brown guises? OK, so the photo gives it away, even if it is in black-and-white. Put on your old Romper Room magic glasses and see the multi-lobed bell pepper in all its vitamin A and C and beta carotene-laden, zero-sodium, low-carb, high-fiber grandeur—the brighter the color, the more healthy the pepper is for you.

Bell peppers are plentiful in the summer. Be sure to give them a good washing because sometimes they've been waxed—why, I cannot imagine—they're so shiny in their own right. Pick your peppers carefully, placing only well-shaped, firm-skinned, unblemished, heavy-feeling-for-their-size peppers into your shopping cart or basket. Then try these two tasty recipes.

Roasted Red Pepper and Corn Relish
2 red bell peppers
2 ears of corn, yellow or white, whichever is in season
2 avocados, diced into quarter-inch cubes
1/2 C. red onion, diced into quarter-inch cubes
1/2 C. rice wine vinegar
2 T. chopped parsley (The flat leaf tastes better.)
Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil for drizzling
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

On a hot grill, char the red bell peppers, turning them so that all sides become blackened. Put the peppers into either a paper bag, a plastic bag or a bowl covered with plastic wrap to allow the peppers to sit in their own heat—to sweat, if you will. This makes the skin separate easily from the meat once the peppers have cooled enough for you to handle. Remove the seeds, then julienne the peppers. Take each ear of corn and fold back the husks, revealing the kernels. Drizzle with olive oil and with sprinkle salt and pepper. Pull the husks back into place and put the corn onto the grill, in a medium hot section. Cook, rotating, until the kernels feel tender to your touch, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the grill and allow to cool until you can shuck the husks and silks from the ears. Then, hold the corn vertically and, using a sharp knife, cut downward, rotating the ear of corn, slicing off the kernels. Mix the peppers, corn, avocados, onion, rice wine vinegar and parsley in a bowl, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice into the mix.

This relish will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days. You can serve it at room temperature or cold, with a grilled fish—salmon or halibut is particularly nice—or with pork.

Roasted Red Pepper Aioli
2 large roasted, peeled, seeded and drained red bell peppers
1/4 C. cooked potato, grated
1/4 C. roasted garlic
2 egg yolks
2 C. olive oil for drizzling (or a mixture of 60 percent canola oil and 40 percent olive oil)
Half a lemon
Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a food processor, mix the potato, garlic and egg yolks. With the machine on, slowly drizzle with the oil, keeping your stream of oil no larger around than the size of the lead in a pencil. Do this until it comes together into a sort of mayonnaise-like consistency and you've used all of the oil. (The potato serves as a liason between the oil and the egg yolks, keeping the aoili from breaking—separating into its parts.) Squeeze in the lemon juice; salt and pepper to taste. Pulsate a couple more times to mix together. In a clean food processor bowl, puree the bell peppers. Add the mayo-like mixture on top, pulse the food processor, and season with salt and pepper to taste. You'll need a bit more to bring out the taste of the roasted red bell peppers.

This aioli makes a fine dipping sauce for a fried fritter-type vegetable or fish, or anything off the grill, like boudin blanc or a banger, German-style sausage. Or spread onto crostini, put a bit of prosciutto on top and serve with fresh arugula on the side for a tasty and healthy treat.


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