lunedì 23 giugno 2008

Cooking With Bell Peppers

I hope that by now you have developed an unprecedented appreciation for the versatility, health benefits and deliciousness of vegetables. A true connoisseur of fine Italian cooking should certainly have such an appreciation, but if you haven’t just yet, not to worry! I’m not quite through with you yet. I’m about to tell you all about the fine qualities and uses of another vegetable popularly used in authentic Italian cooking: the bell pepper.

Probably the most common recipe using bell peppers as the main ingredient is stuffed bell peppers. The peppers are stuffed with meat, rice, other vegetables, or some combination of the three, seasoned, and simply baked. There are tons of variations of this particular dish, and you really can’t go wrong with any choice or combination of stuffings.

Peppers are delicious sliced into thin strips and eaten raw or enjoyed in a fresh garden salad or pasta salad. Perhaps the most overlooked use of the pepper is its incredible ability to add a zest of flavor to so many different things, often without your guests even realizing peppers were used in your cooking. (While this is a fine idea for tricking a finicky husband who refuses to eat anything healthy, it’s probably wise to disclose this information to dinner guests in the event of an allergy!)

Not only do peppers taste delicious whether they are raw or cooked, but an equally appealing feature is the wonderful aroma that will fill your kitchen and your home when you are baking or roasting peppers.

Bell peppers are unripe when green but are actually quite commonly eaten this way, which is somewhat out of the ordinary for a vegetable. Ripened varieties are usually red or yellow, but are sometimes orange, pale yellow or purple. They are an excellent source of Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin C. The red variety in particular also contains lycopene, which can help protect against heart disease and cancer.

So, besides enjoying them raw, with some veggie dip, in a garden or pasta salad, or stuffed and baked, what other recipes could find use for some delicious bell peppers? They make an excellent ingredient in breakfast omelettes, in soups and stews, and in spaghetti sauce. They’re a great addition to lasagna recipes, and they also make a great garnish for a lot of dishes. Simply cut up your peppers into tiny cubes and sprinkle a few on top of scrambled eggs, omelettes, hash browns, casseroles or any other idea you might have that sounds appetizing!

Mmmm…writing about all that has made me hungry, so happy cooking, and don’t forget to keep checking back with us for the release of The Italian Kitchen!

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