If you do no more with bell peppers than toss them on a salad, you’re missing opportunities to add a world of flavor and a splash of vibrant color to your plate, not to mention an infusion of nutrients. They’re among nature’s perfect foods—delicious, versatile, low calorie (only 33 per pepper), and loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Add peppers to your meals and you’ll increase your intake of more than 30 carotenoids; vitamins A, B, C, E, and K; fiber; folate; potassium; manganese; and magnesium.
While green peppers may be more widely used, they’re the least nutritious in the pepper color spectrum. As the color deepens, so does the nutritional value. Yellow is more nutrient rich than green, orange more than yellow, and red boasts the most. Red peppers are not only sweeter than the green
variety, but they also have significantly more nutrients. If you’re looking for a source of vitamin C, put down the orange and grab a red pepper: It has more than three times as much vitamin C as citrus fruit.
They’re available year-round, but peppers are at their peak of flavor in the fall, so fill your shopping bag and try these healthful dishes.
Roasted Green Peppers and Onions
Serves 4 as a side dish
4 green peppers
4 small red onions, trimmed and quartered
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Trim the peppers and remove the seeds and membrane. Slice vertically in long strips about 1 inch wide.
Place the peppers and onions in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over them and stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread the peppers and onions in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
TD&N Nutrient Analysis: Calories: 136; Total Fat: 10 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 7 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 7 mg; Carbohydrates: 11 g; Fiber: 2 g; Protein: 1 g
Pepper and Polenta Salad
Serves 8 as an appetizer
1 tube prepared polenta, sliced into eight 2-ounce slices
Juice from 2 lemons
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups arugula
8 ounces garlic and herb goat cheese, sliced into 1-ounce rounds
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
2 roasted peppers, one red and the other yellow or orange, chopped coarsely*
1⁄2 cup fresh oregano leaves
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the polenta slices on the sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
While the polenta is baking, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Place the arugula in a medium bowl and set both bowls aside.
After 10 minutes, remove the polenta from the oven. Flip the patties and place a slice of goat cheese on each. Return the sheet to the oven and bake for
another 10 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and use a spatula to place each patty on an individual small plate.
Drizzle the oil and lemon juice over the arugula and toss. Divide the arugula into eight servings and place one serving around each patty like a garland.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with chopped pepper and garnish with oregano leaves.
TD&N Nutrient Analysis: Calories: 295; Total Fat: 11 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 22 mg; Sodium: 150 mg; Carbohydrates: 40 g; Fiber: 6 g; Protein: 11 g
HOW TO ROAST A PEPPER
Put thoroughly scrubbed peppers on a baking sheet or directly on an oven rack with a baking sheet below them. For easier cleanup, line the sheet with parchment paper.
Put the baking sheet under the broiler, about 4 inches from the element, allowing the peppers to char. When the top begins to blister and char, about 10 minutes, use tongs to rotate the pepper a quarter turn. Continue broiling and turning until the peppers are charred all around. (You can also char the peppers by placing them on a skewer and holding them over the flame of a grill or a stove burner. They’ll blister more quickly.)
Take the sheet out of the oven and use the tongs to transfer the peppers to a paper bag and roll the bag shut or close it with a chip clip. (You can also put the peppers in a bowl and cover the bowl.)
When the peppers have cooled enough to handle them, about 20 to 30 minutes, transfer them one at a time to a large cutting board. Keep a medium bowl nearby. Take a pepper and hold it over the bowl. Using a paring knife, make a small slit at the bottom of the pepper and let the juices run into the bowl. Reserve the liquid.
Once the peppers are cool, peel the charred skin away using your fingers and discard it. Slice the pepper open and remove the seeds and membranes.
Place the peppers in the bowl with the reserved liquid and refrigerate until you’re ready to use them. You can also use the liquid to add flavor to sauces, soups, and purées.