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 a really sharp knife, cutting the skin even when the skin faces down is not a problem, and it prevents you from compressing the flesh.
Shopping and Storage
As with most produce, you've got to pick up and feel the peppers in the shop to pick the best ones. Things to look for:
- Smooth, firm skin. Avoid any peppers with wrinkles or soft spots. Occasionally, you'll find a pepper that 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 of 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 stem area, then the pepper is not fully ripe. Look for a more evenly colored one.
- Avoid peppers that are individually wrapped in plastic or come packaged in a bag. They may look all right 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 may be immature or may have lost too much moisture during storage.
Peppers can be stored in a plastic bag, left partially open, in the vegetable crisper drawer of the fridge. Do not completely seal them in an airtight bag, as this will trap too much moisture and encourage mold. Properly stored, a pepper should last at least five days to a week.