Shishito peppers are about three inches long and bright green, like a green bell pepper. Pleats and folds run along the length of their bodies; the tip is neither pointed nor blunt, but folds up into itself.
These peppers don’t resemble jalapeños or serranos either in looks or in taste. They’re mild, not hot, though sometimes one will have a little bite. Still, they aren’t quite like bell peppers, either, so know that if you don’t like green bell peppers, it doesn’t mean you won’t like shishitos. You probably will.
This is the fourth year we’ve had these Japanese peppers in the Santa Fe farmers’ market. One farmer saw a need for them, and now several more are offering them. If they’re not available elsewhere, they should be, and my guess is they probably will be. You can’t go wrong with these wrinkled little morsels.
Sautéed shishitos are absolutely delicious to nibble on with drinks, but people are thrilled to buy them for another reason: They’re insanely easy to prepare. The $10 per pound cost probably works out in terms of time saved — for some, anyway. (I see it as expensive!) But knowing their charms and not yet having succeeded at growing my own, I’m willing to pay. It probably comes to less than putting out decent cheese and is a much more interesting alternative.
Here’s what you do with them: Heat a little olive oil in a wide sauté pan until it’s good and hot but not, of course, smoking. Add the peppers and cook them over high heat, tossing and turning them frequently, until they blister. It takes about 10 minutes or possibly longer for a pan full of peppers. When they’re done, add some sea salt and toss again. Some like a squeeze of fresh lemon, too.
Slide them into a bowl and serve them hot. Pick them up by the stem end and eat the whole thing — minus the stem, that is.
You can probably do fancier, cheffy things with them, but they’re terrific like this. If you have leftovers — an unlikely event, in my experience — chop off the stems and put them in an omelet or some scrambled eggs. And if you’re a gardener with ambition, you can get seeds from Kitazawa Seed Company and grow your own.
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The vegetarian-cooking pioneer
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