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Cooking with bell peppers at the height of their season is a chance to work with the flavors of late summer and early fall, flavors that are bigger and bolder than those of high summer but still lively and fresh.
Charring the peppers, then pickling them, gives them a complex, explosive flavor that works well with neutral tasting proteins such as poached eggs, chicken or scallops.
Pickled Pepper Relish
2 cups distilled vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
4 red bell peppers
4 green Anaheim peppers*
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
In a small pot, bring vinegar, sugar, water and salt to a full boil. Transfer the liquid to a small metal bowl and chill.
Char all the peppers over an open flame. Submerge the peppers in the pickling liquid and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Remove the peppers from the pickling liquid. With a paring knife, scrape off most of the charred skin. Remove stems from the peppers. Open the peppers and scrape out the seeds. (Do not rinse the peppers — rinsing will wash out a lot of the flavor.)
Carefully cut the peppers in a small dice. Place the peppers in a small salad bowl. Place a strainer over the bowl, and strain 1/2 cup pickling liquid over the peppers. Stir in the olive oil and thyme. Makes 2 cups.
*Feel free to substitute Hatch chiles for the Anaheims.
1 lb. sweet onions, halved and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 lb. cucumber cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 fresh red chile pepper, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1. Toss together first five ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and let stand one hour. Transfer to a colander; drain 20 minutes. Pack into three (1-pt.) jars, filling to 1/2-inch from the top.
2. Bring vinegar and next three ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; boil, stirring constantly, one minute or until sugar dissolves. Let stand five minutes.
3. Pour vinegar mixture over onion mixture in jars. filling to 1/2-inch from top. Cool completely (about 20 minutes). Cover with lids, and chill eight hours before serving. Store in refrigerator up to two weeks.
Susan Woody has been a food writer for more than 20 years and is a member of the Association of Food Journalists.