According to Farmer Joe, we will be receiving a variety of peppers throughout the season and folks may get different offerings on different distribution days so I though I would highlight two less familiar varieties–Shishito and Padron.
Peppers and chiles are typically differentiated by their level of heat. Chiles are bred to be spicy, whereas peppers are considered their milder cousins. But what to call the varieties that are sometimes sweet and sometimes hot? Like a game of Russian roulette, some peppers have you guessing until your mouth is on fire and you are reaching for the ice water. Such is the case with both shishito and padron peppers, two different yet similar pepper varieties are we receiving from the farm.
Shishito peppers are popular in Japan, where they are often made into tempura or blistered and sprinkled with sea salt and togarashi (a Japanese condiment sprinkle made from nori seaweed, chilis, and sesame seeds). They are typically served as an appetizer or snack . Shishitos are light green, thin walled as well as thin in shape, with a slightly wrinkled appearance (see peppers on the right in the photo). Typically harvested when they are young, most shishito peppers will be mild in flavor. It is estimated that that 1 in 10, or even 1 in 20 will be fiery hot, but this ratio narrows the longer the peppers are left on the vine.
Padron peppers are more bell pepper-like in shape, and are also typically harvested young (1 1-1/2” long) when they are mostly mild. Again, 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 are spicy, with the spiciness quotient increasing the longer the fruit is left on the vine. These peppers also have a thin skin, yet are slightly darker green and a bit richer in flavor than Shishitos (these peppers are shown on the left in the photo above). They are often served as tapas in Spain. Both shishito and padron peppers, like your typical bell peppers, will eventually turn red on the vine, but rather than being a sign of sweetness, their color is a bright indicator of their heat level. Perhaps this is when they are best referred to as chiles.
In general, peppers and chiles are a low calorie, healthful food. They contain high levels of vitamins A and C, and also provide important antioxidants.
Both shishitos and padron peppers are so good simply blistered and sprinkled with sea salt, that I hesitate to recommend them any other way, at least until you have tried them. Last week I shared a simple recipe for blistered shishito peppers. For simplicities sake, I am reprinting this recipe below. Padron peppers can be prepared the same way. Here are two references for blistered padron peppers, one cooked on the grill and one done in a saute pan.
However, there is no reason these little peppers cannot be used like any other pepper in your culinary adventures. Try putting them on kabobs, adding them to ratatouille when the tomatoes are harvested, using them in chiles or stews, or making a condiment out of them (see recipe below). They would also be great pickled. If you like the simplicity of simply blistering them on the grill, under the broiler, or in a saute pan, you can dress them up by tossing the cooked morsels with togarashi or flavored salts, tossing them in sauces like miso, adding them to pasta or grains, or stirring chopped bits of them in with burger, meatball or meatloaf mixes.
Simple Grilled Shishito Peppers (click on title for printable PDF version)
– 1 quart shishito peppers, rinsed well
– 1 tablespoon light olive oil
– sea salt and pepper to taste
Preheat grill (preferably charcoal). Set grill to medium or medium low heat. Spray grill pan with cooking spray and brush with oil. Place peppers on grill pan and cover grill. Cook peppers, turning every minute or two until peppers are soft and slightly charred. Serve immediately. For an interesting twist, toss cooked peppers with 1 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, or with togarashi. Serve hot.
This pepperonata was great served with grilled pork chops. I also think it would be excellent tossed with pasta. The recipe was adapted from Cooking light Magazine (click here for original recipe).
Shishito Pepperonata (Click on title for printable PDF version)
– 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
– 1 pint shishito peppers, washed, tops trimmed if desired but not necessary
– 2 medium shallots, minced
– 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, plus 2 teaspoons
– 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
– 1 1/2 teaspoons coconut sugar or sweetener of choice
Cut a slit down one side of each shishito. This will allow the vinegar to penetrate into the whole pepper.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shishitos and cook, stirring only occasionally for 5 minutes. Add shallots and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or until shallots and shishitos begin to brown in spots. Add vinegar, sugar, and thyme and cover pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until vinegar cooks off and peppers are tender, about 5-8 more minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I developed this recipe last week when I had lots of vegetables but no tomatoes. This pizza can be made as is, or you can add a few slices of tomato, or homemade tomato sauce, if preferred. If adding sliced tomatoes, slice them thinly and don’t use all the other vegetables (you don’t want to pile too many things on pizzas or the crust doesn’t get very crisp)(you may get two pizzas out of it if you use tomatoes).
NoMato Veggie Pizza Makes (1) 8 – 9″ pizza (click on title for printable pdf version)
– 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
– 1 teaspoon sugar
– 1 cup warm water, between 110-115 degrees
– 1 cup white whole wheat flour
– 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
– 1/2 large onion, cut into 1/3″ wedges
– 4 Fairy Tale eggplant, quartered lengthwise (or regular eggplant cut into 1/3″ coins or planks)
– 1 small zucchini, cut into 1/3″ planks
– 3 medium sweet green peppers, or 4 small, cut into 1/3″ strips
– 5 cloves garlic
– 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste, optional
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon freshly minced oregano, or 1/2 t dried
– 1/8 teaspoon red chili flakes
– 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or parsley, plus more for garnish
– about 3 ounces smoked mozzarella, sharp provolone, or smoked Swiss cheese, grated
1. Stir yeast and sugar in warm water and allow to sit for 5 minutes or until it foams. In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix flours and salt using the paddle attachment. Add yeast mixture and mix well. Remove paddle attachment and replace with dough hook. Mix until dough comes together in a ball. Test the dough with your finger. It should be tacky but not overly sticky. If needed, add water by tablespoonful until dough is the right consistency. Using dough hook on speed 3, knead for 8 minutes. (if you do not have a stand mixer, mix yeast mixture into flour/salt mixture by hand until well incorporated and adjust water level as needed per above instructions. Knead dough by hand for 10 minutes, then proceed with the rest of the recipe).
Turn dough out into a well greased bowl, smoothing it into a ball with your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 1- 1 1/2 hours or until approximately doubled in size. Punch down dough and separate into two equal pieces. You will use only one piece for this recipe. The other can be frozen or refrigerated for later use.
2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil until hot. Place second tablespoon of oil in a small bowl. Crush 1 clove garlic into the bowl and whisk together. Allow to sit. To the hot skillet add the onion, eggplant, zucchini, and peppers. Saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Slice the rest of the garlic thinly and add to the pan. Cook stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes more, or until vegetables are soft and beginning to brown. Add oregano, chili flakes, anchovy paste, and red wine vinegar. Cook, stirring frequently, until vinegar is cooked off, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add basil or parsley. Taste for salt level and add additional salt if needed.
3. About 45 minutes before the dough is done rising, place a pizza stone in the cold oven and preheat to 550℉ (or 500℉ if your oven doesn’t heat that high). If you don’t have a pizza stone, grease a baking sheet or a pizza pan but don’t preheat it in the oven.
4. Roll out pizza dough to about an 8 to 9” disk. Prick dough all over with the tines of a fork (this keeps the dough from forming large bubbles) . Transfer dough to a floured pizza peel or unrimmed baking sheet (or to your prepared baking pan or pizza pan). Slide onto the preheated pizza stone and bake for 6 minutes, or until crust is set and just a few browned spots appear. Using a spatula or pizza peel (if using a pizza stone), transfer to a work surface and quickly brush pizza dough with the garlic olive oil (use just the oil, leave the bits of garlic largely behind). Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Sprinkle with cheese, then lay vegetables evenly over the top. Return to the oven and bake for 4 more minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is lightly golden at the edges. Garnish with minced fresh basil or parsley. Serve hot.