If you’ve never had freshly roasted bell peppers or pimentos, you’re in for a treat! The list of ways to use them seems to go on and on. The next time you prepare your favorite tomato sauce, add roasted, peeled and sliced bell peppers or pimentos. If using only sweet bell peppers, include a variety of colors. Or for your next barbecue, roast, skin, halve and seed the peppers and layer them unsliced on a platter with slices of beefsteak tomatoes, creamy fresh mozzarella cheese and sweet red onions, topped with drained anchovy fillets. Chopped roasted bell peppers or pimentos can be added to sautéed onions and garlic and then simmered with long-grain rice. A puréed roasted red pepper adds a fantastic dimension to the ultimate taste and color of soups and sauces.
The difference between a bell pepper and a pimento: Although red bell peppers and pimentos look almost identical, sweet bell peppers have no “heat,” called capsaicin (KAP-sA-shin), but fresh pimentos have varying degrees of capsaicin ranging from very low to moderate. Although fresh pimentos are not as readily available as bell peppers, they are delicious and will add extra zing to your dish. Pimentos with varying levels of capsaicin are most renowned for being dried and ground to a powder to produce sweet and hot paprika.
Nutritionally speaking: All peppers differ in their vitamin C content. Among the mild bell peppers, the red variety has the highest amount of vitamin C—by weight, three times higher than citrus fruits! But hot chili peppers have an even higher amount by weight, over 300% more than an orange. The different levels of capsaicin in peppers make some blazingly hot and others mild and sweet. This chemical substance is also said to act as an anticoagulant, which might help to prevent a heart attack or stroke induced by a blood clot. One of the hottest peppers known at this time is the small lantern shaped Habanero (ah-bah-NEH-roh) pepper, originally from the West Indies and South America. Their color ranges from light green to a vibrant orange when fully ripe. (Also called Scotch Bonnet.)
Handling hot chili peppers: Please, be careful when handling hot chili peppers. The capsaicin that makes them “hot,” an oily substance found primarily in the seeds and inner veins, can cause great discomfort to your mouth, eyes, ears or any cut or open sore. It’s helpful to wear thin disposable rubber gloves (available at your local pharmacy) when doing such procedures, or after handling cut chili peppers, wash your hands as well as your work surface with cool soapy water.
To roast and peel peppers: This method can be used for chili peppers, as well as bell peppers and pimentos. If you have a gas stove, stick a long stainless steel skewer into the stem end of a pepper and place it over direct flame. Turn the pepper as it blisters, pops and sizzles, until the exterior becomes very charred but not overly soft or limp. Remember, the whole point of using fresh peppers (and not canned) is to preserve fresh texture. If your stove is electric, position the oven rack to the highest shelf and preheat the broiler until very hot. Slice the pepper in half through the stem end and remove the seeds. Lay the pepper (skin side up) on a cold broiler pan and place under broiler until the desired color is achieved. Remove and let peppers steam in a closed paper bag or wrap in a clean kitchen towel, about 10 minutes. Then rub off the outer blackened skin, rinsing if necessary. Don’t worry if some of the skin remains since it adds a nice smoky flavor to the pepper. Remove the seeds and pull away any flabby inner white veins. Use as directed in any recipe.
Is there any nutritional difference between the various types of hot and sweet peppers?
Yes. Among the mild bell peppers, the red variety has the highest amount of vitamin C–by weight three times higher than citrus fruits! But hot chili peppers have an even higher amount by weight, over 300 percent more than an orange. The different levels of “capsaicin” in peppers make some blazingly hot and others mild and sweet. This chemical substance is also said to act as an anticoagulant which might help to prevent a heart attack or stroke induced by a blood clot.