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September, 2011

Flavor First with Shishito Peppers

By Cheryl Forberg

The sizzling world of peppers hosts several families.

Pasilla Chile Peppers

The Capsicum family includes the familiar bell pepper as well as chili, banana, cayenne, poblano, shishito, habanero and jalapeno peppers (to name a few). Capsaicin is the plant chemical responsible for the heat in some peppers. In bell peppers, the capsaicin gene is recessive - that’s why bell peppers are so mild (and perhaps so widely used). But while their heat may be low, the gentle bell pepper’s health benefits are high. They contain rich reserves of antioxidants and are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and B-6 (also known as folate).

Personally, my tolerance for spicy food isn’t super high. This explains why poblano peppers, known as pasilla peppers in Mexico, are one of my faves - most poblanos have a relatively mild flavor. It’s been noted however that different peppers, even from the same plant, can vary in heat. Occasionally, you’ll find an ultra spicy poblano. They’re easy to grow (even this urban farmer has a poblano plant in her garden), and can be used in many applications. The most classic poblano dish is the traditional Mexican chile rellenos but they’re also popular in recipes that use grilled and/or stuffed peppers. One poblano pepper has approximately 17 calories and 86% of the daily value of vitamin C. When the poblano pepper is dried it’s referred to as an ancho chile.



My latest obsession is shishito peppers…I just love ’em. They‘re slender, 2 to 4 inches long and about ½ inch wide. These Japanese peppers are small, sweet, mild and delicious grilled with a simple drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. They‘re also great in stir-fries, and commonly served in salads or pickled and served as a condiment. Best of all, there’s no waste! You can eat the entire pepper, including the seeds. When shishitos are young, they’re green and turn red when ripe. But they should be eaten while still green. Their small size belies the fact that they’re loaded with nutrition. One shishito has 20 calories, 80% of the daily value for vitamin A and 170% of the daily value for vitamin C. Though their culinary possibilities are endless, some things are best enjoyed without much ado. This simple shishito preparation was inspired by a dish I tasted at a new restaurant in Napa, called Kitchen Door.

Grilled Shishitos
Grilled Shishitos

This simple but scrumptious dish was inspired by an appetizer I tasted at Kitchen Door in Napa, California. Leftovers are great on sandwiches

Servings: Four 6 – 8 pepper servings

Ingredients:
8 ounces fresh shishito peppers (approx 35 – 45 peppers)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
½ - 1 teaspoon red chili flakes

Instructions:
Preheat grill to medium high. Place the peppers on the grate and grill for approximately 1 minute on each side. Each side should be lightly charred. Because the peppers are small, they’ll continue cooking after you remove them from them heat. Place peppers in a medium size mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Toss gently and transfer to a serving dish. Serve hot or at room temperature. Peppers will also keep refrigerated for one to two days.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories 20
Fat calories 0
Total fat grams 0
Sat fat grams 0
Cholesterol mg 0
Sodium mg 135
Total carbohydrates g 4
Fiber g 1 Sugars g 2
Protein g 1
Vitamin A IUs %; 15
Vitamin C % 110
Calcium % 0
Iron % 2