Kitchen Wit and Wisdom: There’s still lots of grilling time left

Cathi Litzenberger says local peppers are at their peak right now and for dessert, try a grilled banana split

For these special summertime banana splits

For these special summertime banana splits

Today three of my recipes feature bell peppers and other fresh vegetables in season. Did you know that all red, yellow and orange peppers start out green?

The colour changes and their sweetness increases depending on how long they’re allowed to ripen on the vine. Bell peppers are available year-round, but they’re at their best, and most abundant, right now (from July through November). When looking for peppers, look for firm ones with taut skins; avoid peppers with wrinkles or cracks. To get peppers with thick, juicy walls, choose those that feel heavy for their size.

Today I offer a fresh summer gazpacho, a pasta dish with peppers, squash, tomatoes and spicy Italian sausage, a meaty stuffed pepper, and a dessert the kids will love —grilled banana splits!  Enjoy.

Easy Summer Gazpacho

1/2 cup peeled, diced cucumbers

3/4 cup diced green and red bell peppers

3/4 cup diced onion

1 cup peeled, diced tomatoes

2 -1/2 cups tomato juice

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Chopped chives or green onion tops

2 lemons, cut into 4 wedges each

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except chives or green onion tops and the lemon wedges, and mix thoroughly. Prepare in advance and chill overnight. Serve in chilled bowls and garnish with the chopped chives or green onion tops and the lemon wedges. Makes about 4 cups or 8 (1/2 cup) servings.

Pasta with Peppers, Squash and Tomatoes

Coarse salt

3/4 pound rigatoni

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed

1 bell pepper (not green), cut into 1/4-inch strips

1 small yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch rounds

2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved

Red-pepper flakes

Grated Pecorino Romano, for serving

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, breaking apart with a slotted spoon, until cooked through, about 6 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a bowl.

Add 1 tablespoon oil and bell pepper to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned in spots, 6 minutes. Add squash and half the tomatoes; cook 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup pasta water and cook until tomatoes soften, 4 minutes. Return sausage to pan and add remaining tomatoes. Season with red-pepper flakes. Cook until sausage is warmed through and juices thicken slightly, about 2 minutes.

Toss with pasta; if necessary, add remaining pasta water to create a light sauce that coats pasta. Serve with Pecorino Romano.

Meaty Stuffed Peppers

6-8 medium, bell peppers

1-1/2 lbs. lean ground beef

1/2 lbs. lean ground smoked bacon

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves, garlic, pressed

2 cups crushed fresh tomatoes; blanched and skins removed

1 cup chicken broth

8 oz. can tomato sauce (or homemade)

2 cups long grain rice

2 tsp. salt (plus what rice calls for)

1/8 tsp. pepper

Shredded cheddar cheese

Clean the peppers. Cut off the tops and clean out the seeds; save the tops. In a large frying pan, cook the bacon, onions and hamburger until done; add garlic and cook another minute. Turn off heat. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Stuff the peppers; add tops, cover and bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours until the rice is soft and cooked. Remove tops; sprinkle with cheese; allow to melt, and serve. Delicious!

Banana Split

Bananas

Caramel ice cream topping

Milk or semi-sweet chocolate bars

Mini marshmallows

Maraschino cherries

All right, you may not be able to grill the ice cream, but you can toss everything else onto your grill.

Slice a banana (with the peel still on) lengthwise. Squeeze a line of caramel sauce  into length of bananas. Place a few pieces of chocolate and some mini marshmallows inside and put it on the grill until the chocolate and marshmallows melt, about 10 minutes.

Once they’re done, serve with some fresh ice cream and top with a cherry!

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.