I first had shishito peppers at my favorite New York City neighborhood Japanese "pub" Izakaya Ten. After a long day at work, slipping into its warm, eclectic, and simple embrace, I know I'm about to eat some very tasty and nourishing food. (No sake, though. I don't drink, remember?) Having been to Japan once, Izakaya Ten -- with its hipster mix of ancient and modern, traditional and nontraditional -- actually feels the most authentic of all the Japanese restaurants I've been to in New York.
Anyway, I was there with my daughter and she told me I had to try the little green peppers grilled on a stick. They are served simply--just grilled with a little oil and with a few spicy powders next to the skewer for dipping. Biting into their delicate skin provides the perfect balance of grilled pepper with just a mild hint of burn. These are no macho, choke-yourself-with-heat peppers; they are delicately hot, like a perfect Japanese woman.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I found out that über editor-in-chief of Organic Gardening Magazine, Ethne Clarke, was growing them in her very own garden this past summer! Perhaps it was the look in my eye. Perhaps it's the fact that she's just a wonderfully nice person. Or perhaps, like any good gardener, she just had too many to eat herself... but one day I noticed a little supermarket bag on my desk with a Post-It note saying "from Ethne." It was filled with shishito peppers! I was very, very excited.
So I took them home, fired up the grill, tossed the little green peppers in a bit of oil, and grilled them quickly in a grill basket. I sprinkled them with some good salt and...ATE THEM ALL.
I later found out from Ethne that not only are they easy to grow, but also they are quite prolific. I even got another bag from her later in the summer, and my other daughter tried them and loved them, too. She attempted to get the youngest to eat one, but she's afraid of the pepper's heat. It turns out that really only one in 10 of the peppers is actually spicy (and the only way you can tell is to bite into them). But so be it. More for the rest of us.
So...next year...note to self: Plant shishito peppers!
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com