I was given a bag of red shishito peppers by Malaika, the farmer of Roots to River Farm, along with a mission. I am charged with introducing the ripe, red shishito pepper to all of you.
We are used to seeing them in their green stage, at which point, both Japanese and Spanish tapas restaurants grill them, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. They're delicious that way, too, and Malaika has no trouble selling them to restaurants and at the farmers' markets. But once those green peppers ripen and turn red, she can't get rid of them. She has to resort to giving them to me. It's a little depressing, mostly because - like just about everything else - they are so much more delicious when they're ripe.
The shishito is an unusual chile - one in ten possesses spice. Once red, the pepper has all the floral, aromatic perfume of a hot chile pepper like the habanero, ghost chile, and my favorite, the fatali. But mostly, the shishito has none of the heat. That is until you get that one that is a little spicy. It's nature's roulette table on a plate, and one that is worth playing - even the spicy one in the pile tastes great - get it and you've won the prize.
And now that I've tasted them, I don't understand why we stop eating them once they ripen. I can not come up with another plant that we only eat in the immature stage, including other peppers and chiles like the jalapeno which we eat green, but also red as the chipotle.
Find some ripe, red shishito peppers (any farmer who sold them green with have an overabundance that they'll probably sell to you on the cheap) and try them for yourself. You may never eat them green again. -IK
Grilled Red Shishito Peppers
1 pound red shishito peppers
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
Preheat the grill, preferably with hardwood or hardwood charcoal. Grill the peppers, turning occasionally, until blackened in places, then transfer them to a serving platter. Drizzle the peppers with the oil and sprinkle with the salt. Serve.