Bell peppers of all kinds and colors are about to come into season. Coming up with uses for the harvest will be easier if you do a little pepper prep work first: Roast them.
Charring the skins allows the pepper flavor to deepen as the brief heating takes away that raw taste and softens the texture.
You can do the roasting in the oven, on the grill or under the broiler, in a hot skillet or griddle, or even directly on a gas burner. After peppers are charred, place in a covered container to steam briefly, peel off the skin and seed. For the best flavor, roast red bell peppers.
Perhaps the easiest way to use them is outlined by Alice Waters in 1996's "Chez Panisse Vegetables." The legendary Berkeley, Calif., restaurateur cuts the roasted peppers into strips, seasons with salt and pepper, drizzles on olive oil and marinates with a few garlic cloves and fresh basil leaves.
Looking for other ways to use roasted peppers? Here are more suggestions from recently published cookbooks.
Grilled eggplant steaks: Brush eggplant slices with a vinaigrette made with olive oil, tamari, balsamic vinegar, garlic and oregano; grill. Char the peppers on the grill, peel when cool, cut into strips. Combine peppers with fresh basil, cubed feta, black olives and more vinaigrette. Spoon on top of grilled eggplant. "The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook" by the Chefs Collaborative and Ellen Jackson (Taunton Press, $40)
Mezze plate: Ring a dish of hummus with bowls containing strips of roasted red pepper, baba ganoush, tahini, crumbled feta cheese and whole wheat pitas and sliced cucumbers. "The Fresh 20" by Melissa Lanz (William Morrow, $24.99)
— Bill Daley, Tribune Newspapers