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Eat these now: Shishito Peppers

grilled shishito peppers


 

This mild pepper from Japan has become quite the culinary rage over the last handful of years.  I first had them as a snack in a benefit cooking master class for Slow Food NYC, and have been growing them in my garden ever since.

Shishito peppers are slender, bright green, and about the length of your index finger.  They are super flavorful yet mild, with about one in a dozen delivering a memorable amount of heat.  Consider it a party game.

I love serving a huge platter of grilled shishitos with cold cocktails at the start of a big summer dinner party.  Quick, easy, impressive, slightly unusual and pretty much universally adored--there should be no hesitation in adding these to the menu.  Padron peppers can be prepared and served the same way, but will be hotter in flavor overall.

We are in high shishito season right now, so keep an eye out at the market, and definitely grow your own next summer.




Grilled Shishito Peppers

Fresh Shishito Peppers
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Lemon

Grilled shishitos always fly off the platter when I serve them.  Plan for at least 3-4 per person, if not many more.  

Wash the peppers and dry thoroughly.

In a large bowl, toss peppers with a generous pour of olive oil, until evenly coated.

Grill on high medium-heat until evenly blistered and slightly charred.

Remove peppers from grill and transfer directly to a serving platter.  Sprinkle with kosher or other coarse salt, and a very liberal squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Serve immediately with additional lemon wedges.


grilled shishito pepper tapas



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ay
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Grilled Sesame Asparagus


Here's another recipe to break up your asparagus monotony (that is, unless you are coincidentally eating sesame asparagus nightly).

When cooked at its freshest, grilled asparagus spears are practically candy.  Tender, sweet, nutty, with a slight tang from the rice vinegar, this recipe is a natural in asian-inspired meals.  Try it alongside grilled chicken or salmon (using the same dressing as a marinade for those too), or tossed with noodles.  I imagine the stalks would be stunning draped across a big platter of this peanut noodle dish from ramshackleglam.com.

They can definitely be grilled a day ahead and served cold or at room temperature, for an excellent effortless entertaining side dish.  Just save the final dressing and sesame seed tossing for right before serving.


Grilled Sesame Asparagus
by Catie Schwalb

Serves four, as a side dish.

2 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 clove of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
6 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
Salt, to taste
1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed
3-4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Heat grill to medium-high.

Combine the vinegar and garlic in a bowl, and allow to sit for 10 minutes, to infuse the vinegar with the flavor of the garlic. Then, while whisking constantly, pour the sesame oil into the bowl in a slow, thin stream. You can also stream the oil in slowing through the top of a blender. Taste, and adjust salt.

Toss asparagus with half of the sesame dressing. Grill until tender, about 2-5 minutes per side, depending on thickness of stalks. Turn down heat if they start to blacken too quickly.  When cooked through, remove from grill and toss with remaining dressing and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Alternatively, you can allow the asparagus to cool after grilling and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use. Just before serving toss with dressing and sesame seeds.


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Ramp Compound Butter


A huge part of the allure of pungent, earthy, and exotic ramps, is that their season and availability is so fleeting. With only about a month to harvest until their flavor becomes too strong, the annual pilgrimages into the muddy woods for chefs and epicurians has commenced (or early-bird trips to the farmer's markets for the less adventurous, or more wise).  But now also begins the search for ways to preserve ramps, to be enjoyed alongside the bounty of summer produce that is just a couple of months out of reach.

I am a big fan of pickling ramps (and of pickled ramp martinis).  This offers a great way to preserve ramps for months from now, if you can keep them around that long.  I have also become smitten with ramp compound butter.

Compound butter is nothing more than butter that has been mixed with herbs or seasonings, but the whole is much more exciting than the sum of its parts.  It is a great way to add a little unexpected flavor or color to a meal, or to create an instant pain-free sauce for a dish.  Now that you've mastered homemade butter, this is a perfect way to compliment your new home-spun delicacy.

The flavored butter can be packed into a small ramekin or dish for slathering on warm bread, or rolled into logs, chilled and sliced.  Top a hot grilled steak with a slice of ramp butter, and ooh la la.  It is also beautiful on grilled fish, vegetables, dolloped on grilled oysters, or stuffed under the skin of a roast chicken.  Try it when making scrambled eggs, whipped into mashed potatoes or polenta, or tossed with pasta and some grated pecorino.  It will keep for several months in the freezer, giving you lots of opportunities to use ramps with foods that the weather isn't cooperating with just yet.

Experiment and enjoy, and be the envy of all your foraging friends when their ramps have long run out.



RAMP COMPOUND BUTTER

1 lb unsalted butter
4-6 ounces ramps, white and green parts, depending on how concentrated you desire the ramp flavor
zest of one large lemon
salt, to taste

Bring butter to room temperature to fully soften.

Trim root end and wash ramps thoroughly, making sure to remove all dirt and grit in the layers near the root. Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil, and prepare a bowl of water with lots of ice. Blanch ramps in boiling water, for 30 seconds. Remove quickly and shock in the ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the bright green color. Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. Spread ramps out on paper towel to allow to dry a bit more.

Either thinly chop by hand, or mince in a food processor, the white and green parts of the ramps. Add lemon zest and then combine with softened butter. If you want a more uniform, very green, butter, puree it all together in a food processor (as in the photo of the butter above). If you want a more chunky, rustic butter, either fold the butter in by hand or use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer.  Add salt, tasting as you go, if you want salted butter.  If you think you'll be adding it to foods that are already sufficiently salted, perhaps don't add any or very little just to enhance the ramp flavor slightly.

Pack compound butter into ramekins, small dishes, or air-tight containers and store in the refrigerator for about a week. You can also roll the butter into logs, either in parchment, wax paper, or plastic wrap, to be chilled and sliced. The compound butter can also be frozen for up to three months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight before serving.

 

Recipe credit: Catie Schwalb.


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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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