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Peppers, Plus: Summer Grilling

Peppers are one of the late summer risers, requiring long periods of heat and sun to reach juicy fruition - they are always worth the wait. Peppers are members of Capsicum annuum family. The word “Pepper” is derived from the Sanskrit word pippali. Beyond your basic bell (which now run the rainbow gamut of colors from green to orange, red, yellow; even white and purple!), try some more unusual heirlooms if you can get your hands on them. For example, Gypsy peppers are an early maturing, thin walled, v-shaped variety which are crisp and delicate. Try stuffing these with a grated mild cheese like Monterey Jack, and then grilling, until soft and slightly charred outside; excellent as a side with grilled pork burgers or sausage, or tenderloin. Italian frying peppers are incredible, green or more mature red, with or without sausage. Other, later heirlooms include Pimenton de Padron small (avg. 1.5”), piquant, really tasty, long, thick-walled Corno Di Toro (horn of the bull), spicy Chartreuse Pepperoncini (perfect pickled), and any number of Pimiento heirlooms.

Grilling helps enhance the natural sugars and flavor of just about any vegetable, and peppers are no exception. You can roast them whole over medium high flame, turning with tongs frequently until softened and blackened. Place on a plate and put in a paper grocery bag, seal, and let sit for 10 minutes or so. The peppers will steam some, and when removed from the bag, the charred skin will come off fairly easily. Remove the stem and seeds. Serve these straight up as a side with any number of grilled main attractions- skewers of grilled shrimp or scallops, or chicken. Also very a tasty addition to a burger. Beyond that, roast extra- the fire is going anyway. Place the skinned, seeded roasted peppers in a jar and cover with olive oil. They will keep for a week refrigerated, and they’re like money in the bank. Delectable in sandwiches, or tossed into a hot or cold pasta along with other grilled veggies such as eggplant and summer squash and dressed with pesto. You can also make a terrific sauce, blending them with olive oil, garlic, pitted black olives, and grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese. Spaghetti will never be the same!

Sidebars: Get Grilling!

Corn: Soak ears in water for 15 minutes, husk enough to remove silk. Slather with softened butter combined with chopped chives, thyme, or dill, and some salt and pepper. Pull husks back up, and grill over indirect heat for 5-7 minutes, turning occasionally.

Zucchini: Slice lengthwise 1/2 inch thick, marinate in olive oil, lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper and either mint, marjoram or oregano,(or any herb you love/have, combos okay, too) and grill over medium low heat for a couple minutes on each side. Serve hot or chill and save for a delicious side dish on down the road.

Garlic: Cut off top 1/2 inch of whole heads, drizzle with olive oil, bake wrapped in foil at 300F for about 40 min or until cloves are soft when pierced with fork. Cool a bit, then squeeze out the rich unguent garlic and smear on good quality grilled bread. Tomatoes optional.

Cilantro: Grilled seafood, chicken or pork pair beautifully with a healthful and toothsome salsa. To washed, dried, chopped cilantro, add any combo of finely diced mango, cucumber, red pepper, avocado and onion. Season with fresh chilies, salt and pepper to taste, toss with fresh lime juice. Herbaceous heaven.

Peaches: For a twist on dessert, grill halved peaches over low fire for a few minutes on each side, place on plate, smear with mascarpone or cream cheese, drizzle with honey, and top with some finely chopped mint or basil.

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