Brightly flavored with a hint of heat, tiny shishitos are perfect for summer dipping. Dive in for the full On The Table recipe by Stacey Brugeman, featured in this month’s issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

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I first discovered shishito peppers some 10 years ago in Denver at a hipster Mexican restaurant where they were served with a cilantro-lime mayonnaise for dunking. I’d had their near-doppelgänger, the Padrón, more than a decade prior at a tapas bar in Barcelona, so it was easy to spot the resemblance between the two. Both blistered snacking peppers are cousins. In fact, it is said that shishitos were first cultivated from the Padrón. What I didn’t know until recently, however, is that shishitos hail not from Mexico or Spain, but from Japan. Shishi means lion in Japanese, a nod to the wrinkled tip of the pepper, and to comes from togarashi, the spicy Japanese pepper blend. What I love most about this well-traveled little capsicum, however, is how easy it is to grow right here at home. It’s a true darling of any 45th-parallel garden.

Blistered Shishitos

Photo by Sarah Peschel

Ages ago, I gave up on the idea of getting large bell peppers to reach maturity before first frost. I leave the big guys to the pros but love tending smaller seasoning and snacking peppers here at home—especially shishitos. They have a bright, almost citrusy flavor, an earthy skin that stands up to a flash in the pan and are rarely hot (from time to time one will surprise you). My kids love them, my cocktail company loves them and, with increasing availability at farmers markets every August, Northern Michigan farmers seem to love them, too. While, of course, the true origin of all peppers is the Americas, I like serving shishitos with a nod to their Japanese nomenclature and dunk them in this sesame-ginger aïoli.

Blistered Shishitos

Photo by Sarah Peschel

Blistered Shishitos

Photo by Sarah Peschel

Blistered Shishitos with Sesame-Ginger Aïoli

Serves 4 as a bar snack

  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 egg, brought to room temperature
  • 1⁄2 cup sesame oil, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 8 ounces shishito peppers, about 4 heaping cups
  • flake salt to taste

1. Place ginger, garlic and egg in a small food processor and whiz until the egg is foamy, about 15 seconds. Working very slowly, drop by drop at first, add 1⁄2 cup of sesame oil to the food processor while it is running. Once it is fully incorporated and the mixture has emulsified, continue running the food processor and slowly pour in the toasted sesame oil. The mixture should be thick and hold its shape on the end of your finger. Add the lemon juice and 1⁄4 teaspoon of salt and whiz one last time without over-incorporating, which could cause the emulsification to break.

2. In a large dry skillet set over high heat, toast the sesame seeds until golden brown, about 30 to 60 seconds. Pour the aïoli in a small dipping bowl, garnish with the toasted sesame seeds and set aside.

3. Into the same hot skillet, pour the remaining 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, being careful not to accidentally use the toasted oil, which has a lower smoking point. As soon as the oil is hot, add the peppers. Let the peppers jump and crackle for about 1 minute, then shake the pan to turn them over. Cook for another 2 minutes, shaking from time to time, until the peppers are blistered on all sides but still vibrant in color. Remove from the heat and spoon them onto a serving platter, where they will continue to soften. Sprinkle with flake salt and serve with the sesame aïoli and a small discard bowl for the stems.

Blistered Shishitos

Photo by Sarah Peschel

Stacey Brugeman is a Leelanau County-based food and beverage writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Eater and Denver’s 5280, where she served as restaurant critic. Follow her on Instagram @staceybrugeman.

Photo(s) by Sarah Peschel