Use in-season shishito peppers for this Sweet Auburn BBQ recipe

Shishito peppers are 2- to 4-inch long green peppers showing up more and more at local farmers markets. Similar to padrons, another small pepper that’s becoming more common, shishitos are considered “appetizer” peppers, most often served as finger food.

Andrea Ness and Andy Friedberg of Aluma Farm are growing shishitos at Aluma Farm, a 5-acre property along the Atlanta Beltline’s Westside trail. They met when each was renting space from Global Growers Network, a local nonprofit that, among many other things, supports independently managed farm and garden sites in Atlanta.

“We had been working beside each other on different plots. Andrea was doing microgreens and I was doing mostly vegetables in the field. We were each looking for help and decided the two of us together would be stronger than each of us alone. We could make a better farm and we could do a better job of marketing what we grew,” said Friedberg.

With that decision made, it wasn’t long before they responded to a Request for Proposal from Atlanta Beltline Inc. for an urban farm along the Westside Trail. Their proposal was selected, and they now have a five-year lease on the site that borders the Adair Park, Oakland City and Capitol View neighborhoods.

The pair spent a year planting cover crops to help repair the soil damaged by years of use as a bus station and pallet-making factory and then the subsequent cleanup of those industrial uses. “It’s the equivalent of putting on manure or compost, but you’re growing it yourself. The plants stop erosion and cover the soil. Their roots go deep into the ground and that helps create good soil structure and get air into the compacted soil. It helps the soil microbes and insects to thrive and creates a lot of biomass which then gets incorporated into the soil,” said Friedberg.

Then they could begin growing crops for market. “Our crop plan is a balance of things that will appeal to chefs in Atlanta and those that will appeal to the general public,” said Ness.

In mid-June, they were in the field putting out shishito pepper plants.

“Shishitos are more of a restaurant crop. They’re really popular on menus in the summer, which makes sense given that they were bred to be appetizer peppers. They’re super easy for restaurants to prepare. And we both like eating them. We try not to grow things we don’t like to eat,” Ness said with a laugh.

They are growing their shishitos from seed, started in the greenhouse and grown to field-ready size. They’ll be able to begin harvesting about mid-August and these prolific peppers will bear fruit abundantly right up until the first frost gets them.

Aluma Farm offers its produce at the Tuesday evening Ponce City Farmers Market, and 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Thursdays at a stand on the farm, 1150 Allene Ave. They also sell to an assortment of restaurant clients, including Kimball House, Makan, Staplehouse, Gunshow and the Cockentrice.

Generally speaking, shishitos are not eaten raw. The green peppers we see at market are really the unripe fruit. Left on the plant long enough, they will turn red.

“Shishitos are bred to be firm and to hold up to the heat when they’re cooked,” said Friedberg, and so he and Ness prepare their shishitos in the same way most restaurants do, by cooking them with a little olive oil in a very hot cast iron skillet, and then sprinkling with salt and pepper.

Sweet Auburn BBQ’s Fried Shishito Peppers with Lemon Yogurt Sauce

For Sweet Auburn BBQ, this is a great seasonal appetizer, quickly made up in the restaurant’s deep fryer. We’ve adapted it for the home cook who doesn’t have a deep fryer at his or her disposal.

Togarashi seasoning is a combination of sesame seeds, orange peel, poppy seeds, paprika, Chinese chilies, Szechuan pepper, ginger and nori. This traditional Japanese seasoning is used with soups, udon noodles and yakitori. It’s available anywhere that sells Japanese groceries, at the Buford Highway Farmers Market or you can pick up a bag with just an ounce at the Savory Spice store in Virginia-Highland.

Vegetable oil

6 ounces shishito peppers (about 3 cups)

Togarashi seasoning

Salt

Lemon Yogurt Sauce (see recipe)

In a large skillet, add just enough oil to film the bottom of the pan. Add shishito peppers, and cook, stirring often until they begin to brown. Remove from skillet and put in a large bowl. Toss with togarashi seasoning to taste. Add salt if desired. Arrange peppers on a serving plate and drizzle with Lemon Yogurt Sauce. Serve immediately. Serves: 2

Per serving, without lemon yogurt sauce: 206 calories (percent of calories from fat, 87), 1 gram protein, 6 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 21 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 71 milligrams sodium.

Sweet Auburn BBQ’s Lemon Yogurt Sauce

Extra sauce will keep for up to a week refrigerated and makes a delicious dressing for other kinds of grilled or cooked peppers as well.

1 cup plain non-fat yogurt

2 tablespoons agave syrup

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 mint leaf, finely chopped

Lemon juice, to taste

Kosher salt

Water, to thin sauce

In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, agave, lemon zest, coriander and mint. Add lemon juice and salt to taste, then thin with water, if necessary, to your preferred consistency. Makes: 1 cup

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 9 calories (percent of calories from fat, 2), 1 gram protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace fat (no saturated fat), trace cholesterol, 15 milligrams sodium.

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