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Shishito peppers popular and versatile

Do you need to remove the seeds from shishito peppers before using?

It’s not necessary. While the seeds of chile peppers may contain some heat, it’s the inner ribs of peppers that contain the fiery spice. The beauty of shishito peppers, which seem to be gaining popularity in recent years, is they are relatively mild. Raw shishito peppers have a hint of sweetness, and a crisp texture similar to a green bell pepper. They are native to Japan, where they are often served as a snack.

Shishito peppers are light green and average 3 to 4 inches long. They are about ½ to 1 inch in diameter, and the outer skin has small ridges. Trader Joe’s sells 6-ounce bags (with about 20 peppers) for about $2.29. You might come across them at farmers markets.

On the Scoville heat units (SHU) scale, which measures how hot chile peppers are based on their capsaicin content, shishito peppers fall near the bottom, at 50-200. Jalapeño peppers (1,000 range) are a few notches above shishito peppers. But there’s a bit of a catch: About one out of 10 shishito peppers have some heat – right there with jalapeño.

While you can slice, dice, chop and mince shishito peppers, they are best served whole. You can serve them raw or cooked. As with any raw vegetable, rinse the peppers first.

One of the most common ways to prepare shishito peppers is lightly sautéing them in a skillet with a bit of olive oil to blister and slightly char the skin. Before you add them to the skillet, it’s best to poke them a few times with a fork so the steam inside vents – otherwise they may split. Once the peppers begin to char, shake the skillet to move them around and char the other sides. Once blistered, sprinkle them with coarse or regular sea salt.

Shishito peppers take to all methods of cooking: grilling, sautéing, battering and deep-frying. You can also use them in stir-fries. When grilling shishitos, it’s best to put them on two skewers so you can easily turn them.

A recipe from our archives pairs shishito peppers with trendy cauliflower and an almond-based pesto. Picada is a Catalan-style pesto, made here with almonds, parsley and chocolate, which adds a touch of bitterness. This makes a nice side dish. It pairs well with grilled chicken or fish.

CHARRED CAULIFLOWER AND SHISHITO PEPPERS WITH PICADA SAUCE

Serves: 6

1 head cauliflower, trimmed, halved, and cut into wedges

2 tablespoons plus ½ cup olive oil, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Romain Blanquart/TNS
Charred Cauliflower and Shishito Peppers With Picada Sauce pairs well with grilled chicken or fish.

8 cloves garlic, peeled, roughly chopped

1/3 cup canola oil, for frying

12 shishito peppers

½ cup whole almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley, divided

1 tablespoon finely grated dark chocolate, optional

2 teaspoons sherry

Preheat the oven broiler. Arrange cauliflower in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush both sides with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper; broil, flipping once, until charred and tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil and the garlic in a large skillet over medium heat.

Cook until garlic is slightly golden, about 3 minutes, taking care not to let it burn. Transfer garlic and oil to a bowl and let cool. Wipe skillet clean and heat canola oil over medium-high. Poke the peppers a few times with a fork and fry them until blistered and slightly crisp, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Transfer peppers to paper towels to drain; season with salt. Stir almonds, 1 cup parsley, the chocolate, sherry, salt and pepper into reserved garlic oil; spread onto a serving platter. Top with cauliflower; garnish with fried peppers and remaining parsley.

– Adapted from www.savuer.com.

SHISHITO PEPPER TEMPURA

Makes: 24

24 shishito peppers

Other vegetables, such as sliced onion, broccoli florets, green beans or thinly sliced carrot (optional)

TEMPURA BATTER

4 cups cooking oil for deep frying

Romain Blanquart/TNS
Shishito Pepper Tempura makes a great snack or first course.

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup rice flour, divided

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg yolk

2/3 cup ice cold water

Ponzu sauce for dipping

Rinse the peppers and pat them dry. Prepare other vegetables if using. Set aside. Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan to about 350 degrees.

Sift the plain flour, cornstarch, ½ cup rice flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolk slightly and stir in the ice water.

Add the dry ingredients to the egg/water mixture and stir until barely mixed. The resulting mixture should be slightly lumpy. Put the remaining ½ cup of rice flour into a dry bowl.

Dredge peppers in the rice flour, then dip immediately into the batter, one by one. Shake off any excess batter and drop the coated pepper into the hot oil. Working in batches, cook only about 5 or 6 peppers at a time; adding too many pieces at once can cause the temperature of the oil to drop quickly and will result in soggy, oil-laden tempura.

Deep fry the peppers until golden brown, then remove from the oil with a skimmer and drain on paper towels.

Repeat with remaining peppers, allowing the oil to return to 350 degrees before adding the next batch.

Serve immediately with ponzu sauce for dipping.

– Adapted from www.earthydelights.com.

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