Malcolm Jolley likes his sweet capsicum long on the grill…

My green grocer starts stocking Ontario shepherd peppers around June, just about when barbecue season really gets going. They’re for sale through to the later fall when they’re switched for American imports. I think the Ontario shepherd peppers they sell over the first half of the summer are greenhouse grown because farm websites I visited when I Googled the product mostly said they planted them in May and picked them in August. Either way they’re good fleshy sweet red peppers and are the best for grilling because of their shape.

When I say they’re the best for grilling, what I mean is they are best for grilling to the point where their skins blister and char. We grill peppers in the summer to remove the skins because a skinless grilled pepper is the perfect ingredient addition for so many summery foods, from salads to couscous, or just as a side dish dressed in good olive oil.

The long and relatively flat shape of the shepherd pepper means more skin contact on the grill and close to the flames. Grilling shepherd peppers is  basically a set it and forget it proposition, since they only need to be flipped once or twice to achieve near total charring. I just throw them on the grill, turn up the heat high, close the lid and get onto other important kitchen chores, like opening bottles of wine. Other than a quick rinse beforehand, there’s no prep, and I’ll often set them on the grill before I even turn it on. I check them in a few minutes, or more, usually because I am reminded to when they start to smell really good.

Once they’ve blistered and charred, which lends the added bonus of imparting a bit of smoky flavour, I leave them to cool. Once they’re okay to handle it’s easy to strip off the skin with my fingers, and scrape away the seeds. That’s it. Now they’re ready to be chopped up into strips, or whatever shape suits and add shepherd pepper flavour to whatever’s going.