In preparation for the recent gathering of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans (my cooking club of nine friends), I was inspired by a plethora of pepper possibilities. The first was an article in the July issue of Bon Appetit by Molly Wizenberg, exalted author of the blog, Orangette, and the second was a recent dish I devoured at Mercat a la Planxa in downtown Chicago. Molly’s article was about her rhapsodic experience in France eating flash-fried Shishito peppers, and at Mercat a la Planxa, I ate flash-fried Padron peppers with an amazing sauce called Salbitxada. Neither of these peppers are hot, tho I can’t lie – once in a while they’ll deceive you and you will get a zinger. Nothing that will make your head explode, just a little spicy surprise. The Shishitos especially seem to take on a silky, texture and their sweet, savory deliciousness make them easy to pop in one after the other. The only thing left on the plate will be a bunch of stems – you eat the whole pepper, including the seeds. The Padrons can be a bit more meaty, but they are just as delicious. (And both are way too crazy for our friend The Lazy Cook!)
I knew the first thing I had to do was track down these peppers. They can be a little hard to find, and if you just cannot find them, try any kind of Latin market and ask for small, mild peppers. I about jumped for joy when I finally found them at the Chicago Green City Market, as the farmer told me Chicago chefs usually scoop them all up (indeed a recent review of Stephanie Izard’s new restaurant, The Girl & the Goat, cited a dish with Shishito peppers.) Peppers in hand, I was ready to cook!
Salbitxada sauce is a classic Spanish accompaniment to roasted or fried vegetables. It’s thick and a little coarse, and made of ground almonds, tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, garlic and parsley. It’s a no-cook sauce and pretty easy to make. It’s fresh and tangy tasting, light and summery – I still have some left-overs and I dolloped a bit on some scrambled eggs this morning! And it might make friends with some grilled zucchini tonight, too.
Here’s how to make it:
Flash Fried Padron & Shishito Peppers with Salbitxada Sauce
1 cute little box of Shishito peppers (I get mine at the Chicago Green Market)
1 cute little box of Padron peppers (try to find small ones)
Veg oil for flash-frying
1 clove garlic
lemon juice for spritzing
Coarse sea salt
2 Tbl blanched almonds, unsalted, untoasted (I used slivered ones, from Trader Joe’s)
1 jalapeno or 2 serrano peppers
4 cloves garlic
2 ripe tomatoes (or five small ones)
1 Tbl chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbl balsamic vinegar
1/2 extra virgin olive oil
salt/pepp to taste
Heat oven to 350 degrees
1) Toast almonds for about 5-7 minutes (watch closely, don’t burn them!) and then grind them in a food processor til they’re like coarse sand
3) De-seed the jalapenos and remove the white pith; chop
4) Chop the garlic
5) Add peppers and garlic to almonds in food processor – whiz it about til everything’s about the same size
6) Add tomatoes, parsley, vinegar to food processor – let ‘er rip til everything’s fairly smooth
7) With machine running, slowly add olive oil in a stream, til it’s all thick and delicious-looking
Remove to a lovely serving bowl or practical plastic fridge container. This sauce will keep about 5-6 days, refrigerated.
Heat a cast iron pan til it’s HOT! Screamin’ hot! Add a thin film of veg or canola oil (not olive oil – it will fill your kitchen with smoke!). Plop in the Shishitos – watch them jump about like tiny green Japanese firecrackers! Fry for about 1-2 minutes, Add the chopped garlic and salt – be generous with the salt. Fry for another 1-2 minutes until they are blistered. Remove to a plate and shower with lemon juice and serve! Great with beer or Cava.
Same method – but I skip the garlic on these. Flash fry and salt generously – dip in Salbitxada sauce and sigh with happiness!
These were a hit with my fellow cooks in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans, and again last night at a family backyard bash. I hope you enjoy them, too!