The pepper harvest has arrived at the Portland Farmer's Market and last Saturday the wicker baskets were full of the strange fruit, looking like the disembodied noses of witches and winos. I've been reading too much Richard Brautigan, I can't help myself...

A sign above one basket read: "Perfect For Roasting!"

"That's a grand idea!" I thought to myself, and so personally picked a parcel of peppers (not pickled). It was only as I was paying that I realized my ambition may have outstripped my abilities—I had no idea how to roast peppers. I asked the lady who took my money and she said something about putting them in plastic, which I found odd because in my personal experience, heat and plastic don't go together. My wife Kitty, however, assured me that she had some idea of the process, having seen it done a couple of times when she worked as the master baker in a gourmet restaurant in Cleveland, OH. I trust her implicitly.

Actually things turned out quite nicely.

Read how I did it after the jump! Plus a recipe (not a poem) for tater-tot casserole!

We brought the peppers home and put them in a fruit bowl for a period of 24 hours. This is not part of the process per se, but they looked good on the kitchen table none-the-less. The next day, I threw what was left of the summer charcoal in the chimney starter, kindled it with my old articles (I didn't have the heart to burn my colleagues work), and let the whole mess go all ashy.

Once I had the charcoal glowing in the grill, I put the grate on its highest setting and threw on the assorted peppers, whose names I've since forgotten, so don't ask me. I let them sit over the coals, to get them blistery and wrinkled, turning them occasionally. I think the best part was when I'd open the lid of the grill and a wave of pepper smell would billow out, deeply earthy with a tinge of spice, like fresh rellenos. This went on for about 15 to 20 minutes until I was satisfied.

I had pre-warmed a large metal bowl so that the peppers wouldn't cool when I transferred them. Once in the bowl, I covered the peppers and let them steam in their own hot juices for about 25 minutes. Then I removed the peppers and peeled off the loose skin. A simple slice down one side of the peppers allowed me to open them flat and scrape off some of the seeds. A sample of the flesh confirmed to me that I had indeed made roasted peppers.

We put them into the tater-tot casserole that we made last night. It's an old hobo song that goes like this:

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 bag of tater crowns
1 pound ground beef, browned
1 to 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups of corn
Cayanne and hot sauce to taste

Mix browned ground beef, soup and corn in a bowl. Add cayenne and hot sauce (my favorite is El Pato). Transfer into a casserole dish, layering tots, cream of mushroom soup mixture, more tots, cheese and more tots. Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Add roasted peppers before serving.

It was delicious. We plan on using the rest of the peppers on sandwiches. I was going to write this post like a poem, but then I would have been fired. Damn you, Richard Brautigan.