Go to many Japanese restaurants, and shishito peppers are as much a staple on the menu as bowls of edamame. Quickly sauteed until the vibrant green peppers soften and begin to blister, they're often served in a small bowl, seasoned with soy sauce and maybe a touch of vinegar, and garnished with a sprinkling of bonito flakes.
The Japanese peppers can be found year-round, though the growing season typically extends from summer to early fall. Thin-skinned, the delicate finger-length peppers are known for a mild sweetness offset with a gentle heat. Tame as they often are, every once in a while a pepper packs a jolt of heat, and tackling a plate can be quite an adventure.
Readily available in Japanese grocery stores, the peppers can also be found at farmers markets and are increasingly turning up in large supermarkets as they gain popularity. At the same time, chefs and home cooks are beginning to appreciate the pepper's versatility.
Because of their small size and delicate walls, the peppers can be added to a variety of dishes — seeds and all. Slice them up and add them to scrambled eggs, or char them quickly on a grill, the smoky notes complementing the delicate heat of the peppers. Use shishitos to add mild spice to salsas, gazpachos and rich stews, or quickly pickle the peppers to serve as an appetizer or cocktail garnish.
Or stuff the peppers with tuna or cheese — fresh goat cheese is a natural pairing, the gentle grassy notes of the cheese a complement to the mild heat of the peppers. The peppers also work well in a banh mi-inspired grilled cheese sandwich, layered with pickled carrot and daikon strips and sprigs of fresh cilantro.