Recipe: Roasted Bell Pepper Paste

I have to be honest with you all – bell peppers are not my favorite food.  At all.  I can’t stand the way they smell, and I find the flavor totally off-putting.  However, I am on a journey to learn to love and embrace peppers, and I have found so many varieties that I actually do like (mostly the spicy ones!).  I have found poblano and banana peppers to be my go-to substitution for bell peppers in all of my recipes.  I never buy or grow bell peppers because I think there are so many different varieties out there that are better. 

My strike against the humble bell pepper was going incredibly well throughout my adult life, until this past week when I was gifted an entire case of green bell peppers from my friends at Pickalittle Farm.  Considering these beauties had gone unsold and were destined for the trash, my personal mission to reduce as much food waste as possible, and my love of free food, I took them home with me to accept the challenge of finding a way to make them work.

After making several batches of salsa and burying them under layers of tomatoes, jalapenos, and limes, and finding that tolerable, I noticed that I hadn’t made the slightest dent in my box.  Inspired by my salsa making and seeing how those flavors all worked well with the bell peppers, I decided that my best approach here would be to make a kind of roasted, pepper forward salsa. To this salsa, I would add a bunch of complementary flavors to help balance out that unfriendly bell pepper flavor that I can’t stand.  This salsa could be portioned off and frozen, to be used in future chilis and soups throughout the year in small doses.  Small doses with lots of other flavors to balance out a flavor that I don’t like – baby steps on my road to embracing the bell pepper.

With this plan in mind, I lined up two whole sheet pans with the rest of my peppers along with a handful of jalapenos, roasted them for an hour or so (and filling the house with my least favorite smell…), added plenty of garlic, limes, onions, and cumin to my roasted salsa, and considered the result acceptable.  I used this pepper paste in my last batch of nachos and found that tasty.  I definitely think this would work in future chilis and soups.  The roasted flavors help mute the raw bell pepper flavor notes and add a nice sweetness.  The addition of jalapenos bring some heat to the bell peppers that I think really helps.  The extra acid and spices help round this out to make this an overall flavor powerhouse, which is always a good thing to have in the freezer at all times. 

This recipe is awesome for all of you bell pepper fans out there, and will hopefully serve as a good starting place for those of us who may be more bell pepper averse.  I am pleased with the results and look forward to using my roasted pepper paste throughout the year.  If your garden is overflowing with peppers, give this recipe a try!  I’m sure this would work great with any blend of pepper varieties (some mild, some hot) if you have a big mix.  It’s a great way to cook down and preserve peppers without taking up too much freezer space or having to pickle and can. Give this a try, and let me know how it goes!

Recipe down below, along with some pictures! This recipe was made for bulk preservation, feel free to scale it back for smaller batches.

Roasted Bell Pepper Paste:

Ingredients:

  • 20-30 bell peppers
  • 4-6 jalapenos
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 4 limes
  • 1 small red onion (or half of 1 large red onion)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Wash and dry peppers (including jalapenos).  Using a pairing knife, remove any bad/moldy spots of the peppers (if needed).  Carefully prick the peppers with the knife to allow steam to escape while roasting.
  3. Place the peppers on two baking trays and drizzle with olive oil.  Place trays in the oven and roast for 1 ½ hours, until peppers become browned and the flesh is very tender.
  4. Remove peppers from the oven and allow to cool on the trays, about 30 minutes.
  5. When cool enough to handle, pull the stem and seeds out of the peppers (you should be able to use your hands for this).  Place cleaned pepper flesh into the bowl of a food processor, discard stem and seeds.  Repeat for jalapenos as well.
  6. Remove skin and roughly chop onions and garlic.  Add to the bowl of the food processor with the peppers.
  7. Add the lime juice, cumin, coriander, and salt to the bowl of the food processor.  Pulse until smooth but slightly chunky.
  8. Portion into small freezer bags and freeze for later use. 
  9. Enjoy in future salsas, chillis, soups, or taco nights!

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