Colorful peppers offer sweet choices Produce: As bell peppers ripen on the vine, their natural sugars develop.


For most of the year, red, yellow and orange bell peppers are like precious gems: rare and costly. Then comes May, and suddenly grocery-store bins overflow with them for as little as two for a dollar. But why should you choose them over the usual green bell peppers this month?

First, there is the flavor difference. Green bell peppers, because they are picked before they're ripe, have a tangy, robust taste. But when left on the vine to ripen, their natural sugars develop as they change hue. That makes red, yellow and orange bells' flavor sweeter, milder and more subtle. There's also a nutritional difference: As bells ripen, they become richer in vitamins A and C.

Bell peppers are more plentiful this month because May is their peak harvest season nationwide. Growers decide what color to harvest based on market price and demand. In fact, it's not unusual for immature green peppers and mature red, yellow or orange peppers to be harvested from the same field.

But what can you do with all that pepper bounty? We took the bell by the horns and created recipes that make the most of these colorful peppers. Although you can substitute green bells, the flavors won't be as sweet and delicate. Recipes by Janet Fletcher.

Mediterranean Peppers and Potatoes

Makes 5 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup minced, seeded plum tomato

1 1/2 cups cubed, peeled baking potato

1 cup (1-inch) pieces red bell pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (1-inch) pieces yellow bell pepper

1 cup (1-inch) pieces orange bell pepper

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 (10 1/2-ounce) can low-salt chicken broth

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup sliced pimento-stuffed olives

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; saute 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add tomato and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add potato, bell peppers, salt, black pepper and broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in basil and olives. Let stand, covered, 20 minutes.

Per serving: 105 calories (28 percent from fat), 3.3 grams fat (0.8 gram saturated, 1.7 grams monounsaturated, 0.5 gram polyunsaturated), 3.2 grams protein, 17.5 grams carbohydrate, 3.2 grams fiber, 1 milligram cholesterol, 2 milligrams iron, 215 milligrams sodium, 32 milligrams calcium

Baked Grouper With Two-Pepper Relish

Makes 6 servings (serving size: 5 ounces fish and about 1/4 cup relish)

1/3 cup chopped, pitted kalamata olives

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped

1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

6 (6-ounce) grouper fillets

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

cooking spray

1/3 cup dry white wine

thyme sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine first 9 ingredients in a bowl.

Sprinkle fish with 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Place fish in a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Add wine to baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 24 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with pepper relish. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.

Per serving: 225 calories (29 percent from fat), 7.2 grams fat (1 gram saturated, 3.4 grams monounsaturated, 1.8 grams polyunsaturated), 35.8 grams protein, 2.4 grams carbohydrate, 0.7 gram fiber, 80 milligrams cholesterol, 2.2 milligrams iron, 355 milligrams sodium, 96 milligrams calcium

Pub Date: 5/13/98

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