Apparently I’m obsessed with Shishito peppers. I say “apparently” because the amount of times I order them while dining out seems perfectly normal to me, but my friends think it’s excessive. So what if I get them every. single. time they are on the menu? For a girl who typically shies away from repetitiveness (aka commitment), I see this as a good sign. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be in such a monogamous relationship with anything else (ok, if you’ve read my previous blogs you know that I may already be in a serious relationship with bubbly) but I just see these little guys as the best thing on menus right now.
Why do I love them? Let me count the ways:
- The meaning behind their name is pretty cool. It refers to the fact that the tip of this green, fingerling-sized pepper looks like the head of a lion and in Japanese “little lion” is often abbreviated as shishitō.
- Only about 1 in 10 shishito peppers is actually spicy. I’m a gambling kind of girl, and I love that your next bite could be hotter than the last, but likely won’t be…it’s always fun to see which one at the table does happen upon that one.
- The preparation of the peppers is quite simple thus allowing them to be a blank canvas for many different recipes. Be sure to poke a few holes into them before your heating method of choice (they are great grilled, sautéed, pan fried, broiled, etc.), to allow for the hot air to release so they won’t explode. That’s pretty much the only rule they have.
I’ve seen them:
- Tossed in olive oil, blistered under the broiler or on the grill, and sprinkled with salt. Some places add sesame seeds for an added crunch to this simple iteration, others use togarashi which is Japanese chill-salt-spice mixture. I’ve even seen bonito flakes topping these for an impressive, gourmet twist.
- Incorporated into salads. Again, grilled or pan fried and mixed with frisée, watercress, mint and celery leaves then tossed with olive oil and juice from a grilled lemon. Very refreshing and light for a hot summer night.
- Slathered in a miso-mayonnaise and/or parmesan cheese. Yes, it’s a delicious as it sounds with a feeling of the snack being both healthy (it’s still a vegetable after all) and decadent (should I say it again, “slathered in mayo”) at the same time. Girl and the Goat does a lovely rendition of this.
Charred Shishito Peppers at Ada St.
By this point, you are probably asking, “Where can I get some of these amazingly tasty and versatile things?” As mentioned, I highly recommend you try them off of any menu (I’ve recently had them at The Dawson and Ada St.) but you can also get them at your local farmers market. The Chopping Block actually offers a class that will walk you through the Lincoln Square farmers market and then prepare your findings. Perhaps you can request that your chef purchases Shishito peppers to satisfy your curiosity? Our next Farmers Market Tour and Cooking Class is being offered on August 25th. Until then, go ahead, drive your friends crazy and start ordering them everywhere – you’ll thank me for it (even if you do get a spicy one)!