Ingredient SpotLight

Red bell peppers are plump, bell-shaped vegetables featuring either three or four lobes. They usually range in size from 2 to 5 inches in diameter, and 2 to 6 inches in length. Inside the thick flesh is an inner cavity with edible bitter seeds and a white spongy core. Red bell peppers are not 'hot'. They contain a recessive gene that eliminates capsaicin, the compound responsible for the 'hotness' found in other peppers.

Red bell peppers have a delightful, slightly watery crunch that's sweet and almost fruity. Pimento and paprika are both prepared from red bell peppers.

Red peppers are one of the few foods that contain lycopene, a carotenoid whose consumption has been inversely correlated with prostate cancer and cancers of the cervix, bladder and pancreas. Recent studies suggest that individuals whose diets are low in lycopene-rich foods are at greater risk for developing these types of cancers.

For people worried about colon cancer, the fiber found in peppers can help to reduce the amount of contact that colon cells have with cancer-causing toxins found in certain foods or produced by certain gut bacteria. In addition, consumption of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and folic acid, all found in bell peppers, is associated with a significantly reduced risk of colon cancer.

And now, before I leave you for the month, here are a couple of my favorite recipes featuring red bell peppers. I hope your family cherishes them the way mine does.

Linguini with Broccoli and Red Peppers

  • 1 pound linguini pasta
  • 1 pound fresh broccoli, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch garlic salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

Steam the broccoli with 2 tablespoons water in the microwave for 6-7 minutes.

In 10-inch skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over low heat. Stir in the garlic (more or less to suit your tastes) and red pepper slices; sauté gently.

Drain the broccoli and add to the skillet. Sprinkle lightly with garlic salt and sauté the broccoli and peppers until soft.

Toss the vegetable mixture with hot pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Soup

  • 1/4 cup butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted red peppers, seeds removed and sliced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (12-ounce size) evaporated milk
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounce size) vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes or until the onion is tender. Transfer the onion mixture to a blender container. Add the red peppers; cover. Process until smooth. Melt the remaining butter in the same saucepan. Stir in the flour. Gradually stir in the evaporated milk and broth. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Stir in the red pepper mixture, salt and pepper. Heat through.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes