The first step to great food is great knife skills. Check out more Knife Skills this way!
Bell peppers are in season right about...now. They're great raw on their own, cooked rapidly in stir fries, or cooked down slowly for stews and soups. Each cooking method requires a different shape, and with a vegetable as oddly shaped as a pepper, it's not always obvious how to cut it uniformly. This short video should help.
Incidentally, there are two camps when it comes to cutting peppers: those who cut skin-side-up, and those who cut skin-side-down. I used to be in the former, finding that keeping the skin up was the only way I could break through it with my knife. The flesh would act as support, while the knife cut through the skin. That's until I realized that with really sharp knife, cutting the skin even when the pepper faces down is not a problem, and it prevents you from compressing the flesh.
Shopping and Storage
Like most produce, you've got to pick up and feel the peppers in the shop to pick the best one. Things to look for:
- Smooth, firm skin. Avoid any peppers with wrinkles or soft spots. Occasionally you'll find a pepper which has coarse, raised brown ridges (green peppers and jalapeños seem particularly prone to this). This is purely a cosmetic problem, and will not affect the flavor or the pepper.
- Bright color, especially around the stem area. Common sense, but red peppers should be red, yellow peppers should be yellow, purple peppers should be purple. If there is still green showing around the steam area, then the pepper is not fully ripe. Look for a more evenly colored one.
- Avoid peppers individually wrapped in plastic or that come pre-packaged in a bag. They make look alright from the outside, but you never know what you're going to get once you open the bag.
- Choose peppers that feel heavy for their size. Peppers that seem light are either immature, or have lost too much moisture during storage.
Peppers can be stored in a plastic bag left slightly ajar in the vegetable crisper drawer of the fridge. Do not completely seal them into an airtight bag, as this will trap in too much moisture and encourage mold. Properly stored, a pepper should last at least five days to a week.