Padrón Peppers

We just love discovering new foods. The greatest thing to hit our local farmers markets this summer, or at least that’s new to us, is the Padrón pepper. Steve first tasted them at Bocadillos where they were served pintxos-style, cooked whole in a little olive oil until the skins blistered then lightly salted. He was hooked from the first bite.

Padróns have a unique flavor marked by an unusual meatiness and just a hint of bitter. They (usually) pack no heat in the tiny seed cluster that nestles next to the stem. But every once in a while, you get a hot one that reminds you that you’re eating peppers. The heat dissipates quickly. It’s spicy like cinnamon, not like a hot chili pepper, so there’s no risk that the capsaicin sensitive will be bowled over by these delicious nibbles.

The dark green peppers are picked when bite-sized making them a perfect finger food. And like other salty finger foods, they’re hard to push away from after only a couple of bites. We’ve eaten entire pints in a single sitting. But unlike potato chips or roasted nuts, we just can’t feel guilty about feasting on them.

These Spanish delicacies are, in fact, a New World food that made its way back to Europe a few hundred years ago. Popularized by Jose Andres, and other Spanish chefs, the pepper variety is enjoying its 15 minutes of fame and as such is now readily available throughout the summer at a growing number of farmers markets across the country.

Peter Piper may have picked a peck of pickled peppers, but we sautéed the Padrón peppers with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Which is much easier to say and do.

Even though we are late to this pepper’s fan parade, we want to give a big shout out to them for anyone who will listen. Now go out and find some Padrón peppers and give them a try!

Delicioso!

Padrón Peppers

1 pint Padrón peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 good pinch of course sea salt

Wash peppers under running cold water until well rinsed, drain. Heat olive oil in sauté pan until just shimmering. Add peppers and cook on medium high heat, turning frequently, until skins blister on all sides. Remove from heat, drain on paper towels and plate, sprinkling with the sea salt. Eat warm or at room temperature.

Mustard Greens

Eat your green veggies.

Steve’s first taste of cooked greens came in the late-‘80s. They were prepared in a modest home somewhere in central Florida (Tampa? Ruskin?) and they were amazing. It would be years after those first tastes before he rediscovered collard and mustard greens. Our diets improved dramatically when we moved to San Francisco in the mid‘90s in part because we started including fresh, bold greens into our grocery routine thanks to all the ease of access created by the purveyors in our neighborhood. And unlike the way greens are cooked in the South, long and slow, when you cook them the California way, they’re a quick sauté, spending time on heat just long enough to become a little tender while still chewy.

Mustard greens are sharp with their peppery, spicy and slightly bitter flavors – perfect with olive oil, garlic and chili pepper flakes. These greens are real “super food” that delivers impressive quantities of vitamins and minerals in a single serving. They’re delicious added to hearty soups and clear broth noodle soups. They can be baked in gratins or shredded and added to stir fry. We like them pan cooked in hot olive oil. They retain their bite and their herbaceousness when cooked quickly at high heat until just wilted.

Pan wilted greens make a perfect side to rich meat dishes. The astringent greens cut nicely through the sweet puree adorning the roast as well as the cheesy polenta that we served with it.

Sauted Greens

1 bunch mustard greens, kale, or chard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large garlic clove
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Wash the leaves and remove the stems. The stems can be used in the sauté, or frozen for another use, or composted. If using the stems, cut into small pieces and sauté for 5 minutes before proceeding.

Roll the leaves together and cut into 1” ribbons. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan. Smash the garlic and cut into large pieces (at the stems at this point if you’re using them, add to the hot oil, cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant, along with the red pepper flakes if using and cook for 10 seconds then add the greens. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, turning with tongs. Add a little water, about 2-3 tablespoons, to the pan along with the greens to avoid burning the garlic. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for another 5 minutes. Check the pan often and add more water if necessary to make sure the pan doesn’t dry out. Check the salt and pepper and re-season if necessary.