People might be divided on how they feel about green bell peppers (you either love them or hate them), but it's hard to find someone who doesn't like sweet, bright red peppers. They contain 300 percent of the daily allowance for vitamin C, plus they're high in vitamin A, B6 and magnesium.
Technically a fruit, the red bell pepper is a member of the capsicum family, which also includes hot chili peppers. It originated in South America, and in fact, archeologists have discovered ancient remnants of peppers in Peru and 9,000-year-old fragments in Mexico. Columbus brought dried seeds back to Europe with him, where they were mistakenly lumped together with black and white peppercorns (hence the name).
How to prepare
In salads and sliced for dipping in hummus or ranch dressing, the sweet snap of a piece of fresh red pepper makes for a perfect snack. Roasted red peppers are a smoky addition to dishes and preserve the pepper's fresh taste when frozen or kept under olive oil in the refrigerator.
Chesapeake Bay Crab, Ricotta and Red Pepper Pie
Will Wienckowski, chef at Ipanema Café, graciously shared this fresh fall recipe with us. Makes one 9-inch pie (serves 10-12 as an appetizer or 6 as an entrée).
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
4 1/2 ounce of butter (or 9 tablespoons), cut into small squares and chilled
1/2 cup of basil leaves cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon of salt
Work the flour, butter, basil, and salt together by hand, or by pulsing in a food processor until a crumbly texture is achieved. Work the egg into the dough by hand. If the mixture is too dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time until you have a nice workable dough. If it's too wet, just dust it with a little more flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, or a dish towel, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie pan. On a floured surface, roll out the dough until it's just large enough to line the inside of the pie pan. Cut away any excess that hangs over the edge. Crimp the edges of the crust with a fork. Place a sheet of wax or parchment paper over the pie dough and pour dried beans or pie weights over the paper. This will keep the crust from developing bubbles.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust has cooked through and is no longer doughy. (You can use a store-bought pie shell, but I think it's worth the minimal extra effort to make your own.)
For the filling:
2 large red bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin, 1-inch strips
2 shallots, peeled and diced
2 green onions, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 pound of jumbo lump crabmeat
1 cup of ricotta cheese
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup of whole milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Begin by melting one tablespoon of the butter in a sauté pan, add the shallots and green onion, and cook until they're soft and begin to brown slightly. Add the second tablespoon of butter, allow it to melt and then add the bell pepper. Cook, stirring or tossing occasionally, until the peppers have softened.
Gently combine the crabmeat, ricotta, heavy cream, milk, egg, chives, basil and flour together in a bowl. Add the peppers and onions, and then stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the mixture into the prebaked piecrust (it should just barely hold it all). Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. The top of the pie should be nicely browned. Remove from the oven and allow it to rest for at least 15 but preferably 30 minutes before slicing.