Roasting a sweet red pepper changes its properties entirely, even the color goes from fire-engine to brick. Heat intensifies the pepper's sweetness, removing the tangy taste the raw version delivers. A raw pepper is all hard edges when cut open, but a roasted pepper implodes on itself, soft but by no means bland. The trend of roasting red peppers for salads, sandwiches, dips and sauces began heating up in the United States in the late 1980s but really caught fire about 10 years later. Today, roasted red peppers are so popular that they are widely commercially available.
There are several ways to roast the peppers: over a gas flame on your stove or the grill, or under the broiler.
The Washington Post recently published these simple under-the-broiler directions. This technique is especially convenient when roasting several peppers.
Lightly coat the peppers with vegetable or olive oil. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil, split the bell peppers through the stems and lay them cut side down on the baking sheet. Place in the oven and watch closely. When they start to char, turn the baking sheet around to ensure even charring.
When the peppers are charred, turn off the oven and let them sit until cool enough to handle. (You can also put them in a brown paper bag to cool.) The peels will come off easily, as will the stems, softened cores and seeds.
Roasted peppers can be stored for a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Drizzle them with olive oil for added flavor. They don't freeze particularly well because they go mushy when thawed.
Janet K. Keeler, Times food and travel editor