- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sweet bell peppers, when cooked minimally over high heat, retain crispness and color (and become even sweeter, if that is possible), while transforming themselves into the most versatile side dish-slash-condiment imaginable.

A touch of this can cheer up any plate, at any temperature, and can turn something plain into a meal. Pile this colorful combination of soft, sweet onions and crisp, bright, barely cooked peppers on top of (or in the case of rice of pasta, mixed in with) anything you want to spruce up: grilled tofu or fish, an open-face cheese sandwich, an omelet, pasta, rice - really anything.

This dish will keep for up to a week if stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. You can then use it incrementally as desired.

Bell pepper festival

Makes 4 to 5 servings.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced onion

3/4 pound bell peppers (assorted colors), thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic

Place a medium-large, wide, shallow skillet over medium heat. After about a minute, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.

Turn the heat to high and add the onion. Cook it quickly until it wilts and becomes translucent. This will take only about three to five minutes.

When the onion is very soft, add the peppers, salt and garlic. After about a minute over strong heat, turn the stove down to medium and continue to cook and stir (tongs work best) for only about five minutes longer. The peppers should be barely cooked.

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature in any context.

*Mollie Katzen is author of “Moosewood Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press). To contact her, visit www.molliekatzen.com.

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