Blistered Shishito Peppers

This post was written by amber on July 15, 2009
Posted Under: appetizer, dairy-free, gluten-free, summer, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian


This isn’t so much a recipe as a very easy technique. The first time I had peppers blistered like this was in Spain, and they were a revelation. They were pimientos de Guernica, mild but flavorful little peppers, fried in olive oil until blistered, then tossed with coarse sea salt. The sweetness of the pepper, that lovely charred tang, and the crisp flakiness of the salt combined to create one of the most addictive foods I’ve ever encountered. I ate them every chance I had that trip, eventually also discovering pimientos de PadrĂ³n, which are similar to Guernicas, but with with an occasional spicy-hot one in the mix. Eating them is a little like playing a pepper version of Russian Roulette — you never know who’s going to get the kicker until he’s reaching for more sangria.

The PadrĂ³nes I see now and again, but I haven’t had much luck finding Guernicas here in New York, other than at my favorite little tapas bar, Tia Pol, and next time I go, I’m going to ask where they find them. Meanwhile I’ve found that shishitos make a very fine substitute, and the fantastic Yuno’s Farm stand at the Union Square Greenmarket (Mondays and Fridays) has a steady supply of them from now until fall.

These peppers make the perfect summer dinner party appetizer, as they can be made in under 10 minutes, they look pretty, and they’re a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. They’re also great for a quick snack at home. We eat them like popcorn while watching a movie, and I often eat them standing at the kitchen counter on the nights I come home starving and am too impatient to cook a full meal. The key is to get fresh peppers and use good quality olive oil. (Unsurprisingly, I’m partial to a Spanish variety, made from arbequinas, but any good kind will do.)

Blistered Shishito Peppers

couple of handfuls of fresh shishito peppers
1-2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan
couple of pinches of coarse sea salt

You’ll be cooking the pepper whole, so do not remove the stem. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Turn heat up to high and add the peppers in a single layer. Don’t crowd them; cook in more than one batch if needed, but they need to have space to brown rather than steam. Once you’ve added the peppers to the pan, do not stir; let them sit in place for about 2 minutes, to allow them to brown and blister. Toss the peppers and then let them sit again for another 2 minutes. Toss more frequently for 1-2 minutes after that, until peppers are lightly charred (they should be brown rather than black) on the outside and very tender. Spread on a plate and sprinkle generously with sea salt flakes. Serve immediately. Use the stems to hold onto the peppers, suck the meat off the ends, then discard stems. I challenge you not to tear through a plate in less than five minutes time.

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