Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Shisito Peppers

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Shisito Peppers
Shisito Peppers
Shisito Peppers are popping up on menus everywhere. In the past, you would only see them on the menu of Japanese restaurants. Now, they’re white hot and I have seen them on dozens of menus in a variety of cuisines. They are without a doubt the easiest things to make. The only hard part is finding them in your local grocer. While Japanese grocers commonly carry them, I have been finding at local Farmers Markets. (In San Diego – look at Chinos, Specialty Produce and local Japanese grocers)

The pepper is small and finger-ling sized, slender, and thin-walled. It turns from green to red upon ripening, however it is usually harvested while green. The name refers to the fact that the tip of the chili pepper (tōgarashi) looks like the head of a lion (shishi), and in Japanese it is often abbreviated as shishitō. It is thin-skinned and will blister and char easily compared with thicker skinned varieties.
The peppers au naturale 
I love serving these as an appetizer. They are delicately sweet and usually mild. About one out of every ten peppers is spicy. You may get one in your batch or may not.  Of course the spiciness can be increased after cooking as well. They are incredibly easy and quick to make. You can alter the ingredients as you wish – these are my favorite additions.
  • 20 Shisito peppers
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • Togarashi (optional- a Japanese mixture of spices which contains chilies) 

Wash and dry 20 or more whole shisito peppers. In a hot skillet, heat to high and add 2 Tb olive oil until almost smoking. Add the shisito peppers and toss in hot oil until blistered, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off heat and quickly add 1 tsp toasted sesame oil and 2 tsp soy sauce to pan, (careful - it will vigorously sizzle).  Remove from heat, transfer to bowl and sprinkle with 1 tsp kosher or sea salt, and 2 tsp lemon juice over the charred peppers.  If you wish more spice or heat, sparingly add a sprinkle of Togarashi.  
Note the little blisters on the peppers
Almost done!
Eat immediately. Don't eat the stems or end nearest stem. Consider the stems your handle!

Shisito peppers can also be cooked on the grill.  Heat the grill to medium high (about 375 – 425 degree F).  Meanwhile place your clean and dried peppers in a medium bowl, add 2 Tb olive oil, and toss to coat. Set aside.

When the grill is ready, place the peppers on it in a single layer, making sure they are not touching; reserve the bowl they were in. Grill the peppers uncovered, turning them occasionally, until they start to char and blister, about 6-8 minutes total. Return the peppers to the bowl toss immediately with 1 tsp kosher salt, a dash of sesame oil, 2 tsp soy sauce and lemon juice.

There just may not be a wine pairing here – perhaps a good quality cold sake or beer would work best.  This is a fun – very IN – appetizer right now and so very simple to make.  The occasional hot one just adds drama and perhaps laughs to your cocktail time. Give it a try!  There is a reason for its popularity – it’s fun and tastes great.
With Togarashi, which contains chile peppers

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