blistered shishito peppers with heirloom tomato, red onion, and herbed chevre
Y'all. These shishito peppers, well they're a big deal.
They are the hipster-riffic appetizer of the moment.
They are on the menus of the places to eat.
They are eaten roasted, grilled, fried, broiled, and tossed with salt, olive oil, balsamic, garlic, maybe covered or tossed with cheese or sausage or almost anything you can imagine-- or nothing at all.
They are in season right now (don't wait much longer!).
They are the bomb.
On a recent trip to one of Austin's local farmers' market, I hit the jackpot. Johnson's Backyard Garden set me up with the peppers and the onions, to accompany the lovely Indigo Rose heirloom tomatoes I was cradling in my palms as if they were precious treasures. Because they were. And their cost was commensurate with their value. (Let me just say, right here, that heirloom tomatoes cost way more than the conventional mealy, tasteless tomato I'm purchasing for half the price, and less than half of the satisfaction. In tomatoland, you get what you pay for.)
Because the fun of shishitos are that about one in ten pack a bit more wallop than the rest. And no amount of studying will determine which pepper will, um, surprise you, a bit. Each bite is accompanied by 'is this the one?', and all eyes are on the eater.
Admittedly, even the offender is still much less aggressive in heat as its cousins, serranos, jalapenos, habaneros, and the like.
Simply toasted with a drizzle of oil and tossed with a little coarse ground salt, a bowlful is blissful, shared, with a few ice-cold beers.
But have I ever been known to leave well-enough alone?
one pint of fresh shishito peppers
one pint of heirloom Indigo Rose tomatoes
one red onion
about one tablespoon olive oil
the juice and zest of one lemon
coarse ground kosher salt
(see optional seasonings, below)
served with herbed chevre, either purchased as is, or home-seasoned, using the herbs with which you've chosen to season the vegetables. (Note: Chevre can be very soft, or it can be found to be a bit firmer. I began with a firm chevre, seasoned it as above, added a bit of minced fresh garlic, and enough heavy whipping cream to allow it the softness necessary for spreading, a little more than a teaspoon.)
Serve, plain, as an appetizer, tossed together for a tasty side or lunch, or, if desired, with crostini, or crackers
Preheat broiler. (Alternatively, you may grill, or pan-roast in a cast-iron skillet over high heat.)
Wash vegetables and dry thoroughly.
In a small pan, 1. add completely dried, whole shishito peppers. 2. Add whole, washed and thoroughly dried small, heirloom tomatoes. 3. Slice whole onion in half, lengthwise, and into bite-sized wedges and toss with peppers and tomatoes. 4. Season. For this batch, I drizzled with olive oil, the juice and zest of a lemon, coarse ground salt, and sesame seeds.
On the top rack under the preheated broiler, place pan, and watch closely, with oven door ajar, until vegetables begin to char. Remove from heat, carefully, toss, and replace, repeating until most sides of vegetables are blistered.
Remove from heat, allow to cool a bit, taste, and correct seasonings.
While the ease of standard prep of a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of good salt makes these little babies so simple and attractive, they are the perfect foil for seasoning combinations that are bit, like me, out of the ordinary. Sesame oil, either toasted or not, as well as hot chili oil, in combination with olive oil (to lower the smoke point just a bit) lends an entirely different flavor profile, well-suited to seasonings like freshly grated ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and Asian spice blends. To go in a Spanish-inspired direction, consider a 'grassier' olive oil, perhaps with sliced Marconi almonds and smoked paprika. Go oil-less with your favorite vinegar or citrus-based sauces like Ponzu, as well as soy or tamari sauces. Italian-inspired flavors of garlic and Parmesan cheese, perhaps with coarsely ground black pepper? And then dip them into a golden runny yolk of a poached egg??? Well, you can see how fun these little treats can be.
Play around a bit with your favorite flavors and see what masterpiece you develop!
And feeling a little hot and spicy these days, yourself? Learn how, and why, to heat up, and cool off, with these, and other nutritional power-packing peppers. Visit Tips For Tuesday, Superfood: Hot Peppers! and find scads of delicious dishes, all by fellow Austin Food Blogger Alliance members, in which they are showcased, by visiting the link above, on Notes From Maggie's Farm.