Tucked next to French beans, Shishito peppers, and curly Chicory, Padrón peppers have made their late summer appearance. A product of Galicia, they’re a popular tapa lightly fried with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. I hadn’t heard of them until I read José Pizarro’s Seasonal Spanish Food and recognized them as the compact and deep green peppers everyone crowds around during the short weeks they’re available at the market. With my current Spanish preoccupation, I thought it was time to try them.Eaten whole, you can expect most of the peppers to have a mild and barely sweet flavor, nicely setting off the blistery browned skin, good olive oil and whatever snobby salt and bright wine you decide to serve with them. The trick of course is that about 1 in 10 of the peppers are packing heat and, like a sleek Hitchcock villain, they blend in with all the rest.
With my mother in New York for a surprise vacation, we went to the Union Square Market for an indulgent mid-week visit. When I mentioned the peppers, she was excited to try them since on her last trip to Spain they were too far out of season to find. Coming home with our market haul, it was late for a big lunch and we had plans to meet more family that night for dinner so there was just enough afternoon left to fry them up. Setting out 10 to a plate, we took our chances. Most market signs compare eating them to Russian roulette though I thought it was more like watching fireworks – some flavors quietly appearing then melting away and others bursting through in a flash of red. The peppers become stronger towards the end of the season and I’d say our batch was 30/70, hot to sweet. Each distinct in its own way, after the first few, I couldn’t remember which kind I was hoping for.
Pimientos de Padrón/Padrón Peppers
Barely adapted from José Pizarro’s Seasonal Spanish Food.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces whole Padrón peppers
Sea salt flakes
Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the peppers to the pan in a single layer. Sautée the peppers, moving constantly until the peppers begin to brown and blister, do not overcook. Remove from the oil and drain on a rack lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately.