To honor the passing of summer, last week Erin and her man invited me and Mr. Mixologist to their new apartment for a summer’s sunset double date. As we watched the stars twinkle and the mosquitoes buzz around our “Off” sprayed arms and legs from their wooded, rooftop perch, we munched on one of my favorite late-summer farmers’ market finds: shishito peppers.
These peppers are an addictive experience and a true conversation starter at any gathering. They prove the perfect social lubricant when introducing a new beau to your old friends, especially old friends who love to gamble! Long like a jalapeño, but thin-skinned like a tomato, Japanese shishitos are the Russian Roulette of the pepper world. I don’t know what the odds are exactly, but it must be something like one in every dozen is as spicy as a habanero, while the rest are as mild mannered as a bell pepper. This makes for some dicey situations if you don’t like heat, but if you’re willing to gamble you could win big. I love heat and find the earthen spiciness of shishitos to be a one-of-a-kind flavor profile that I crave all year long.
Shishitos first started showing up in July when they were a uniform bright Kelly green, but as the weeks have worn by, I’ve watched them morph into striated rainbows of every color combination possible. Peppers of every variety hit their stride in the Northeast from July-October, making now prime time for peppers. They just started stealing the stage at farmers’ markets across the city, as this is the one time of year where you can find peppers in every color that grows in a garden. Forget plain old green, red and yellow, at their peak of harvest, peppers can range from deep, rich browns to bright, gemlike purples and oranges, and every color in between. My “research” (a.k.a. eating) has revealed that as these suckers mature and change colors, they become a whole lot spicier. Back in July, I might have had to pop 20 peppers before I got lucky with a spicy little devil. Last week, in this particular bunch I bought at the Union Square Greenmarket, just about one out of every three peppers was so damn hot Erin had to spit them out in her napkin. What a waste! I covet shishitos, especially the spicy ones, and was hoping Mr. Mixologist would follow my lead.
While Erin lit the candles and her man uncorked bottles of vino up on their roof, I enlisted my date to help me behind the stove. He already proved his chops in the kitchen frying zucchini blossoms and shucking clams, so I knew that blistering peppers would be an easy challenge for this well-versed, shishito-virgin, foodie fella of mine. I of course, was sure to point out there’s no castration required (this time). After a quick sauté, a sprinkling of sea salt and a spritz of lemon juice, we brought our goodies upstairs, and sure enough, my Mixologist proved a pro behind the stove and a fan around the table. He may have made a few fans too (and nothing feels better than your new guy hitting it off with your old crew)! As we all bid summer farewell between bouts of laughter and bites of fire, I couldn’t help but look forward to what autumn might bring – especially when I felt my date’s hand slip effortlessly into mine, the heat from the shishito tingling the tip of my tongue.
Blistered Shishito Peppers
(serves as many as you dare prepare)
- Shishito Peppers
- Canola Oil
- Lemon Juice
- Sea Salt
Heat a few tablespoons of canola oil in a heavy bottomed wok or frying pan until scorching hot. Add the whole shishito peppers and sauté until they start to blister…that blackened char taste is my favorite part of these peppers, which would also be awesome (stuffed or naked) on the grill. Remove from the heat and toss with a sprinkling of sea salt and a spritz of lemon juice. Eat immediately (at your own risk)!