Last week we picked up a basket of mixed peppers from our CSA. Included were some of our favorites: shishito peppers. Now, if you’ve not had shishito peppers, they’re a bit hard to describe. We would say that they have a pepper taste. In general, only about 5% are spicy hot, and even those aren’t super hot. But, they don’t quite taste like mild peppers, either. They have a taste all their own. And, the best thing is that they’re super easy to prepare. Normally, we go with a light tempura batter, or sometimes just with pan-roasted with salt, but, this time, with the mixed pepper basket, we only had about half as many shishito peppers as usual, so we wanted a way to stretch them into two servings.
As it happens, we’d recently returned a cookbook to the library, Charlie Palmer’s American Fare, that had a recipe for shishito peppers and mushrooms. Now, we didn’t really follow it at all, other than to remember the idea of shishito peppers, mushrooms, and walnuts, with a splash of tamari sauce, but we figure that’s enough to give credit where it’s due.
We’re not sure if you’ll find shishito peppers at a store; possibly, but we’ve never seen them there. We also haven’t looked. For the mushrooms, we used ordinary white mushrooms — we always have a box on had. Finally, tamari is a naturall- fermented soy sauce; it doesn’t contain salt water, caramel color, or wheat thickeners. It’s just soy sauce. We buy the San-J brand of organic tamari, which we like. Try it, and maybe a few others; you’ll be surprised by the better flavor and taste as compared with La Choy and other national brands.
Procedure in detail:
Pierce peppers. Do you want to prevent your peppers from puffing up and explosively splitting open during cooking? Then simply take a sharp knife and pierce each pepper right near the stem end. This allows the steam inside to escape, so no pepper explosions.
Heat oil. Place the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium to medium-high heat. A cast-iron skillet is ideal for this, as it will hold heat, allowing the mushrooms and peppers to sear nicely. Continue to heat until the oil gets all shimmery, but not so long that it starts to smoke.
Sear peppers and mushrooms. Stand back and toss in the mushrooms and peppers — they’ll spatter blistering hot oil — and sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Let the peppers and mushrooms sear for a couple of minutes, then shake or stir to turn them over. Let the other side sear for a few more minutes, shake the pan again, and continue until the peppers are blackened in spots and the mushrooms are cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add walnuts. Stir in the walnuts and cook long enough to heat them all the way through.
Serve. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and serve with tamari sauce on the side.
We liked this pretty well, but we still think our favorite way to eat these little peppers is in a tempura batter. It’s more trouble, but the batter holds the tamari sauce. Here, the addition of mushrooms and walnuts was pretty good, something like a small stir-fry, but we think they distracted from the star of the bowl: the shishitos. Even though this is really easy, it just doesn’t have a “wow” taste, so three stars.