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Picking Peppers

Pick a peck of one of the most colorful vegetables in the garden this month. September always signals the end of the colorful favorites in my garden pots, and those that aren’t frozen become great dishes to enjoy right away. Often a dish of fried green tomatoes accompanies a colorful roasted pepper dish or the wonderful marinated pepper salad. So go pick some peppers, and enjoy the end of the season with a colorful meal.

ROASTED PEPPERS
Roast peppers over gas burner or under broiler. You can also immerse in hot oil until pepper skin is blistered on all sides. Place peppers in plastic bag, close, and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Remove from bag, place under running water, and remove skins from peppers. Split peppers, wash out seeds, and remove veins. Use immediately in recipes, or store peppers in refrigerator for about four days.

RED BELL PEPPERS STUFFED WITH POLENTA
6 red bell peppers
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup polenta or coarse cornmeal
3-1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
4 Tablespoons fresh basil (no substitutions)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (no substitutions)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Fontina cheese

Preheat oven to 375°. Slice the tops off the peppers and remove seeds and ribs. Make the bottom of the peppers flat for standing by trimming off a small amount from the bottom, making sure you do not cut all the way through. Arrange in a shallow buttered baking dish.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are wilted, about 3 minutes. Add polenta or cornmeal and mix well. Slowly pour in chicken broth, stirring constantly to combine. Add cream, corn, basil, cilantro, salt, pepper, and 1/2 of the Romano or Parmesan cheese. Cook, stirring constantly, with a wooden spoon until polenta becomes very thick. This will take 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Fill peppers with the mixture and sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Stand peppers upright. Bake 25 minutes until golden brown. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

MARINATED PEPPER SALAD
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
1 orange bell pepper, cut into strips
1 large red onion, cut into thin strips
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Balsamic vinaigrette, enough to coat lightly

Combine ingredients and toss to coat peppers and onions completely. Chill before serving. Divide on plates, on a lettuce bed if desired. Serves 4-6.

STIR-FRY SHRIMP WITH PEPPERS
3 Tablespoons oil
2 cups shrimp (fresh or frozen), shelled and deveined
1 medium red onion, sliced
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 sweet red bell pepper, sliced into julienne strips
1 teaspoon salt

Place oil in wok or pan suitable for stir-frying. Add shrimp and onion and stir-fry 2-3 minutes until shrimp turns white. Add soy sauce and sugar, cover wok, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lift cover and add red pepper and salt. Cook everything 2 more minutes. Stir well and serve. Serves 4.

RED BELL PEPPER SOUP
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup potato, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup carrots, julienned
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon fresh parsley
1 cup chicken stock (canned broth will work)
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add half the carrots, the remaining vegetables and seasonings, and continue to sauté for 5 minutes. Add stock and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Simmer 15-20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Puree the soup in a blender and return to the pot. Add remaining carrots and return to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Serve hot. Serves 3-4.

SMOKED SAUSAGE WITH PEPPERS AND ONIONS
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 lb. smoked Kielbasa, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 medium onion, sliced very thin
1/2 cup water

In a large heavy skillet, heat oil over medium heat until very hot but not smoking. Brown smoked sausage and add vegetables, stirring for about a minute. Add water and simmer mixture, partially covered, 8-10 minutes until vegetables are tender. Serve mixture on a mound of cooked rice or pile onto a hoagie bun and enjoy State Fair style. Serves 2.

Coming Next Month: Cooking in Cast Iron

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