In most parts of the United States, tomatoes say summer and squash screams fall. Those are easy. But what's the season for peppers? They always seem to be available at the grocery store and never arouse the fervor seen for other seasonal treats, like peaches or strawberries. So let me tell you, bell peppers are at their best in late summer. Right now.
I know this because an increasing number of varieties are front and center at the market. Purple bell peppers have joined the usual red, green, orange and yellow. Baskets of tiny sweet peppers about the size of cherries are on display, which are now in my kitchen awaiting culinary inspiration.
But before the debut of the really tiny peppers, there were baskets of these baby sweet peppers, most about 3 or 4 inches in length and in shades of yellow and orange. I immediately decided these would be stuffed.
Roasting the peppers softens their edges and concentrates their sweetness. Stuffing them with quinoa and chorizo came to mind first, and from there cotija cheese, lime and cilantro were natural additions. Cotija is crumbly and salty. It browns nicely and only slightly melts. Try feta if you're looking for a substitute. Queso fresco if you'd like something that melts more.
To use up all of the quinoa mixture, I also roasted a couple of poblanos, but large bell peppers would be great. The poblanos packed a lot more heat than the small orange and yellow ones. So much heat that I later regretted not wearing gloves while handling them. I tried dipping my hand in milk to soothe the burn. Then, vodka. Absinthe. Half and half. Vaseline. None of it quite worked. Poblanos are not as sleepy as they seem. So, learn from my mistake. Or stick with the sweet peppers. They taste their best now through November.
Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be contacted at [email protected]