PEPPERS

Times Food Editor

There are now golden peppers and purple peppers, and before long, one will be seeing creamy white peppers as often as their red and green siblings.

Back in the days when I was growing up in the Midwest, our favorite grocery store usually had a good supply of "mangoes" on hand. They were not, of course, mangoes at all. They were simply green peppers. How and why green peppers came to be called mangoes in that part of the country, I don't know. Oddly enough, as I remember it, the beautiful red peppers, which are nothing more than ripened green peppers from the same plants, were properly called sweet bell peppers or red bell peppers. It took years, however, and a move to Hawaii where I met up with the true mango, to break me of the habit of thinking of green peppers as mangoes.

Cooks long have relied on green and red peppers to provide a touch of color as well as flavor to favorite dishes. Today, the selection is much broader. Now there is a veritable rainbow of sweet-pepper choices for anyone in search of colorful vegetables. Brilliant golden bell peppers and even purple ones can be found during the summer months. And before long, one will probably be seeing creamy white sweet peppers almost as often as their more commonplace red and green siblings.

The purple and yellow peppers prevalent now are more or less the same shape as the common red and green peppers; however, the white we have come across is different. It is shaped more like an elongated California chile than the squatty bells. Make no mistake, though, this Dutch import (most of the yellow and purple peppers are Holland-grown also) is definitely a sweet pepper. And like the red, yellow and purple ones, it, too, is a fully mature vegetable.

Although called white, this particular pepper is really more of a cream color. As with its purple and yellow counterparts, it's available through wholesalers who handle specialty produce but is sufficiently new to the market that it may be difficult to find at the retail level. In another year, however, it probably will be as prominent at produce counters as any of the others.

There are a couple of interesting points about these newer sweet peppers. The purple pepper, for instance, is one of those cases where the color is skin-deep only. Cut one open and you quickly find that only the thin outer skin is purple. The inside of the pepper is a bright green. And there's an even greater surprise in store for the cook who elects to cook a purple pepper. When cooked, both the purple skin and bright green interior turn a deep, dark green. It makes one wonder just how plant geneticists do these things.

There are more than just color differences among the various sweet peppers, also. A taste test of the raw vegetables in The Times' Test Kitchen produced a consensus that green peppers do indeed have a somewhat sharp and immature flavor. The familiar red peppers were much sweeter than the green, but considerably less sweet and mellow than the other mature peppers. The purple peppers were sweeter and somewhat softer in flavor than the red but not as sweet as the yellows, which were judged the sweetest of all. Our taste testers even detected a slight citrusy tang, which they liked, in the yellows. The white peppers were very mild, in fact almost bland in flavor.

It should be pointed out that we were being very picky in searching out flavor differences. Most of the peppers varied only slightly in flavor, so there is little problem in using whatever color you prefer in a recipe. Use the purple raw, though, if it's color you're after.

Raw pepper strips make wonderful snacks, with or without dips. They also are excellent when served in an Italian-style recipe. The Italians, who dote on their own very sweet peppers, broil them until the skins are blackened and thus easily peeled. Then they cut them into strips and marinate the tender strips in a rich, herbed olive oil long enough for the peppers to absorb the flavors of the oil. The tangy result often replaces salad in Italy; however, peppers done this way also are wonderful when served as a relish for meats.

Another treatment for peppers that is both unusual and most attractive is our version of a curried chicken and rice salad. This is an excellent choice for a potluck party or a buffet since it tastes as good as it looks.

MOLDED CURRIED

CHICKEN AND

RICE SALAD

1 sweet red pepper

1 yellow pepper

1 green pepper

6 cups cooked and cooled rice

2 1/2 cups cups shredded cooked chicken

1 cup minced celery

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Curry Hollandaise Sauce

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds or pine nuts, optional

Salt

White pepper

Cook peppers in boiling water just until skins begin to loosen. Plunge into ice water at once. Peel peppers, cut in halves lengthwise and remove stem, membranes and seeds. Cut peppers into wide strips lengthwise. Press pepper strips, alternating colors, in bottom and up sides of greased 5-cup ring mold. Set aside while preparing salad.

Toss together rice, chicken, celery, green onions, garlic, Curry Hollandaise Sauce and almonds. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Spoon salad into mold, packing down firmly and evenly. Chill well. At serving time, unmold onto platter. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Curry Hollandaise Sauce

6 egg yolks

1/4 cup lemon juice

Dash white pepper

1 cup hot melted butter or margarine

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon rosemary leaves

1/4 teaspoon salt

Blend egg yolks, lemon juice and white pepper in blender container until smooth. Gradually add hot butter in thin stream while blender is running. When mixture is thick and creamy, blend in curry powder, sugar, rosemary and salt. Makes about 1 2/3 cups.

ITALIAN-STYLE

PEPPERS

1 pound green or sweet red peppers

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 clove garlic, peeled

Broil peppers until blistered and charred on all sides. Turn stem side up so tops blister also. Place in paper bag, close tightly and set aside to steam for 15 minutes. Peel peppers. Cut in half and remove seeds and membranes. Cut lengthwise into 1-inch-wide strips.

Beat oil and lemon juice together in wide shallow container. Cut garlic in half, crush each half and add. Mix in pepper strips. Cover tightly and chill 3 to 6 hours or overnight.

Before serving, remove garlic and let peppers stand at room temperature so congealed oil will melt. Place in serving dish. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

PILAF-STUFFED

PEPPERS

6 to 8 large green peppers

1 cup bulgur

2 cups boiling water

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 teaspoon salt

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1/4 teaspoon cumin

Carefully cut stem ends from green peppers and set aside. Remove membrane and seeds from green pepper cups. Cook peppers and caps in small amount of boiling salted water until barely tender. Invert cups on paper towels to drain.

Meanwhile combine bulgur, water, butter and salt in heavy saucepan. Bring to boil, cover tightly and simmer 30 minutes or until bulgur is tender.

Carefully spoon bulgur pilaf into pepper cups. Place close together in baking dish and place caps over filling. Mix tomato sauce and cumin and pour around peppers.

Cover, using foil if baking dish has no cover. Bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

JOHN'S PEPPER RELISH

2 slices bacon, chopped

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 green peppers, cut in strips

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 teaspoon chicken stock base

Cook bacon in skillet until crisp. Remove bacon bits and reserve. Add butter to drippings and heat over medium heat. Add garlic, saute a few minutes.

Stir in peppers, saute about 7 minutes. Reduce heat and add vinegar and stock base. Stir.

Cover and simmer 7 minutes. Drain. Serve topped with reserved bacon as accompaniment to meat dishes. Makes about 4 relish servings.

RICHARD HERD'S

STUFFED PEPPERS

4 large green peppers

Boiling salted water

4 slices bacon

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 cup diced onion

2 tablespoons chopped celery

1 tablespoon chili powder

Salt, pepper

1 (5 1/2-ounce) can tomato juice

1 cup crumbled corn bread

1/2 cup drained whole kernel corn

Cut ends off green peppers. Remove insides and drop in boiling salted water 10 minutes. Remove from water, drain and cool.

Saute bacon in skillet until crisp and golden. Leave 1 tablespoon dripping in skillet and reserve bacon for topping.

Heat drippings and brown ground beef. Add onion, celery and chili powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in tomato juice, corn bread and corn.

Stuff peppers with mixture. Top each with slice of bacon. Place in baking dish with small amount of water in bottom. Bake at 350 degrees 30 to 40 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

FRENCH-FRIED SWEET

RED PEPPERS

2 large sweet red peppers

6 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg

2 tablespoons water

Oil

Wash peppers, cut off tops, remove seeds and core. Cut into 1/8-inch rings. Dip rings in crumbs mixed with salt, pepper and cheese. Then dip rings in egg beaten with water and into crumbs again. Chill 1 hour.

Pour oil to 1/2-inch depth in pan and heat to 375 degrees. Fry peppers in hot oil until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Makes 4 servings.

STUFFED PEPPER RINGS

4 large or 6 medium sweet peppers

2 cups cottage cheese

4 to 5 ounces dried beef, shredded

1/2 cup soft bread crumbs

2/3 cup chopped celery

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 egg

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

Remove tops from peppers and scoop out seeds. Combine cottage cheese, beef, bread crumbs, celery, onion, thyme and egg until well blended. Fill peppers and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Cut peppers crosswise into 1-inch slices. Arrange in baking dish and top with tomato sauce. Bake at 350 degrees 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving to allow filling to set. Makes 6 servings.

BEEFY BISCUIT PEPPERS

3 large sweet red peppers

5 cups boiling water

1 pound ground beef

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 beef bouillon cube

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup uncooked instant rice

1/2 cup water

2 cups buttermilk baking mix

2/3 cup milk

Caraway seeds

Cut stem from each pepper. Cut each pepper in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membranes. Cook peppers in boiling water 3 minutes. Drain.

Saute ground beef, onion and celery in large skillet until beef is brown. Drain. Stir in tomato sauce, bouillon, garlic salt, Worcestershire, rice and water. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 3 minutes.

Place peppers, cut sides up, in 13x9-inch baking pan. Spoon beef mixture into peppers. Cover and bake at 400 degrees 15 minutes.

Mix baking mix and milk until soft dough forms. Beat vigorously. Drop dough in large mound onto each stuffed pepper. Sprinkle with caraway seeds. Bake, uncovered, about 15 to 25 minutes, until biscuits are light brown. Makes 6 servings.

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