Shishito (or padron) peppers with okra

You often see shishito peppers for sale in those little plastic boxes in grocery stores; they look so tempting, but it is often a struggle to know what to do with them. They are not hot at all, and take very well to grilling.The idea is that you pop the whole thing in your mouth and pull out the stem.

I have tried that method, and they were good, but not very versatile, being mostly suited as finger food or appetizer. What does one do with them when one isn’t having a party with a platter full of appetizers?

Well this simple recipe did the trick. It can go with any Indian meal, be a filling in a sandwich, be the vegetable side for a heartily seasoned piece of fish, etc.

I also got to use up the leftover okra in the fridge; and far from being filler, it went very well with the at once dark and bright flavor of the shishitos. In fact, I might have discovered a soul bond between these two vegetables.

Step 1: Wash, prepare and slice the vegetables.

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I used one pint box of the peppers and about the same amount of okra. Rinse and air dry the vegetables; take the stem tops off. Then, slice them into even-sized slices about half an inch wide.

Step 2: Dry-saute.

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I use the same method of dry-saute that I used in this recipe: A way with greens. That method quickly pulls the surface moisture off the vegetables, and sears them; and I believe seals the rest of the moisture in. If grilling is good, this is a facsimile and works in the same flavor profile. Don’t stop the dry-saute until you see many hearty brown spots and the vegetables look completely dry. Something like this:

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Step 3: Saute.

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Now comes the oil. I use pure olive oil for these high heat methods, because the smoke-point of extra virgin is quite low and would work better with a gentle simmering. Clear a spot in the pan, put in the oil, watch it shimmer instantly (because the pan is hot); then stir in the vegetables, thus giving them their first true saute. Now add salt to taste and keep the contents of the pan moving every minute or so. The saute process lasts about five minutes.

Step 4: The seasoning.

I chose a simple, simple seasoning method for this recipe, that hardly betrays its Indian origins. Use two kinds of heat — a healthy amount of black pepper, and some red chili powder. Either could be skipped. I also added a teaspoon of dry mango powder (aamchoor). Most pantries don’t have this, so some squirts of lime juice would work too. Stir for half a minute, while still on a hot pan; then turn off.

We had it with rotis, but it could go with rice and dal, be fabulous in a raita once the vegetables have cooled; or insert them between two slices of focaccia with some avocado, lettuce and cheese.


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