The first time I saw shishito peppers was in New York City's famous Union Square Greenmarket. One of the farmers, whose specialty was Asian vegetables, had a huge crate of these gorgeous little green peppers -- they looked most tempting! Since then, I've been such an avid fan of the exotic peppers that I've even grown them in my own garden.
Shishito peppers are small Japanese sweet peppers; they're skinny and slightly twisted. They're picked young, while still green and only about three inches long. When growing my own I've never had a spicy one in the bunch, but when I've purchased them, about one in 10 peppers turns out to be hot. Also, I find that the smaller the peppers are, the less of a chance they'll be spicy. Of course, the most wonderful thing about these little peppers is their flavor -- slightly smoky and sweet with a hint of bitterness.
They are delightful simply pan-sautéed with a little olive oil, served as a nibble or a side veggie. But here, I serve them with feta, olives and fresh thyme for a delectable hors d'oeuvre.
If you can't find shishito peppers at your farmers' market, look for them in Asian specialty stores - especially Korean markets, where you'll find them labeled as "twist peppers."
Marinated Feta with Pan-Roasted Shishito Peppers and Olives
Active time: 20 min
4 oz (115 g) Shishito peppers or mini sweet peppers - left whole
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt to taste
8 oz (225 g) feta - cut in 1" cubes (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Step 1: Before cooking the peppers, make a small slit in each pepper with a paring knife. This will prevent them from bursting when they cook. Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil and peppers and toss well. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until peppers are golden-brown and blistered, tossing only occasionally. Transfer to a tray lined with paper towels and sprinkle with the salt. Set aside.
Step 2: Place the feta, olives and roasted peppers in a wide bowl. Sprinkle with the thyme. Drizzle with the olive oil and gently turn the ingredients over with a silicone spatula, being careful not to break the feta cubes. Let marinate at room temperature, for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour before serving.