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Grilled Padron Peppers – Lost and Found

Small victories. Do you know that feeling of always looking for something in the hopes of one day spontaneously finding it? I’m not talking about Mr. or Mrs.Right, or that $20 bill that seemed to have gone AWOL. I’m talking about the little things. Particularly, those little things that remind you of big things.

I remember one of my best friends brought home a ring from Eastern Europe that was made out of wood. It was a very simple little ring and probably cost only a few dollars, but that ring represented something so much bigger to her–the love of a place, and a special memory of that place. She left it on the sink in the bathroom of a bar in San Diego and never saw it again. When we’d get together, I remember she would lament about that little wooden ring. No other wooden ring could compare.

I have felt this way about lost rings but I’ve also felt this way about lost food. Food that I can still taste, but cannot ever seem to find. I feel this loss about hazelnut dulce de leche. And nutella and mascarpone gelato. And these little cheesy-custardy cakes from Sintra in Portugal. (You’ll notice a pattern: I tend to feel this loss for sweet things in particular).

And I have felt this way about Padrón Peppers. Little green peppers, charred and seared over a grill, tossed with olive oil and topped with crunchy, fat sea salt. I can’t recall the first time I tasted them, but if it wasn’t in Europe, it was at a restaurant in San Francisco. When they came to the table, I’d be surprised if I didn’t eat them all. Because they are that good. Not too spicy (though once in a while, you can get an angry one in the mix), smoky, salty, slightly-greasy. I even love their name: Padron. Native to Spain, these little guys pack a serious flavor punch. And yet, for the last however-many-years-since-I-first-tried-them, I have not been able to find them. Not in the grocery store, not at my market, and not at the farmers market.

That is, until a spontaneous trip unveiled a whole wooden basket of them. Overflowing and pricey! I swooned. Discovery! I picked up a bagful and anxiously waited to throw them on my grill pan. Ready in just about 5 minutes, I inhaled them and their salty/oily/charred goodness. The discovery was so sweet that not only did it bring back memories of travels, but it created a whole new memory: padron peppers, grilled on the stove, in my kitchen in San Francisco. One day I’ll look back at this time and try to re-find THESE peppers, too.

Grilled Padron Peppers
12-16 Padron peppers
extra virgin olive oil
large-grain sea salt (such as French gray)

1. In a small bowl, toss the peppers with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and a few good sprinklings of sea salt.
2. Heat your grill (or indoor grillpan) to medium-high heat and grill the peppers, turning them every so often, until their skins have puffed and charred slightly in places (about 3-5 minutes).
3. Serve hot, with additional sea salt, to taste.

Musical Pairings: Miniature Tigers – Fortress + Grilled Padrón Peppers

You know what I love? When I discover things that are “awesome.” It’s even better when I discover something that I should have discovered before, but that somehow was able to sneak past me, only to be discovered later little later on. For example, I saw Miniature Tigers when they opened for the Morning Benders at the Independent in SF back in March of this year. I remember thinking that they were awesome, but for some reason, I just didn’t pick up their debut album at the time. I’ve been feeling the same way about peppers recently as well. As a child, I pretty much hated peppers. As an adult, I’ve had no specific complaints about peppers, but only recently I discovered that I freaking love peppers. They can be somewhat sweet (in a savory sorta way) and they can be ridiculously hot (a quality I immensely enjoy in food stuffs). Grilled padron peppers with a little sea salt are a particularly great example of this new found love. They always taste great, and can be surprisingly spicy. Well, I also recently rediscovered the Miniature Tigers. And you know what? They are also awesome. Their sophomore album, Fortress, is one of those albums that is entertainingly weird, but also fun and approachable: like distilling the music and feeling from a Wes Anderson film into an exciting and original album. You can read the rest of the review at Musical Pairings. –Matthew

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Posted by Kasey

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Kasey is the food editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. She loves dark chocolate, warm crusty bread, and traveling to new places. She speaks Russian, but does not like vodka.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14334441121491984365 redmenace

    These peppers sound amazing! Where was your spontaneous trip where you found them? Dying to know!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05641448576726538534 Kasey

    I actually found them at the Mountain View farmer's market when I was down in the South Bay visiting my parents! I literally shrieked like a little girl.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15270440612156971084 nicole

    What a great story! I love getting excited about produce at Farmer's Markets and the grocery store. People think I'm nuts, but it's worth getting excited about :) Maybe one day I'll get to try these peppers!

  • http://www.ModernBeet.com Jen (Modern Beet)

    I love Padron peppers! It's sort of like hot pepper roulette…Happy Quail farms in East Palo Alto grows them, and they are always at the Ferry Building farmer's market (Palo Alto too if you happen to be down there). Mariquita Farms also has them, but they don't sell at any farmer's markets — you can only get them when they come up to SF for 'Mystery Box' days. Totally worth it though

  • http://www.foodgal.com Carolyn Jung

    My favorite summer-time cocktail snack. Every summer, I grow my own padron plant, too. With the weather this year being on the cool side, I'm still waiting for mine to produce. Sigh. Guess I'll have to just high-tail it to the Happy Quail Farms stand in the meantime to satisfy my craving.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05641448576726538534 Kasey

    Nicole- I couldn't agree with you more–keep an eye out for these peppers!Jen: thanks so much for the info! I totally agree re: the pepper roulette. One of these peppers left my mouth burning. I wouldn't recommend these to folks that are afraid of the occasional kicker. Good to know about all of those places in the Bay Area where I can find them!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05641448576726538534 Kasey

    Carolyn: where would one get a padron plant?? While I live in the city and will likely not be able to take advantage now, I'd love to know where I might be able to get one in the future! I wish I had a porch where I could sit with a glass of Cava and pop this peppers in my mouth late into the evening…

  • http://Anonymousnoreply@blogger.com Anonymous

    I make a something very similar with "Shishito Peppers", which look just like your padron peppers….I find my peppers at local asian markets, very inexpensive! Sometimes they are labeled "twisty peppers"…I like to flash fry mine in a hot pan. I usually crisp up some pancetta, remove from pan, add some olive oil then toss in my peppers. I like mine crispy tender with a little bright green and char. Then I add the pancetta (broken into bits) back to the pan. Serve with a sprinkling of sea salt and shaved parmesan. Delicious!I will be on the lookout for your beautiful padron peppers to give them a try as well! Thank you for a mouthwatering post!

  • http://Anonymousnoreply@blogger.com Anonymous

    Found some in NY this morning at the union square market, very exciting. Reminded me that we had the most perfect bowl of padron peppers in Napa last month at Farmstead, up in St. Helena. In case anyone is up there and looking for a real treat, well worth the visit.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16631790058495250859 Holleran

    found these peppers at the marin farmers market last sunday and cooked them up and enjoyed them sooo much. the flavor is outstanding and true to form, a hot one or two in the mix. i'm going to grow them next summer! they are amazing. renee's seeds carries the seeds. viva padron!

  • http://Anonymousnoreply@blogger.com Anonymous

    Had some at Bix in SF in August – YUM! I've been mouth watering every since when I think of them. Not yet looked for them but hope to find them somewhere!

  • http://Anonymousnoreply@blogger.com Anonymous

    I bought some shishito at an organic farm in San Juan Bautista. My friend said she tosses them in a hot pan with a little olive oil and coarse salt. I decided to try it but not liking peppers I only bought a few. THEY WERE DELICIOUS!! I guess I need to buy more. I understand that Happy Boy grows Padrons and they are available at the Aptos Cabrillo Farmers Market. Enjoy!

  • http://bloggingcornerblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/simplest-dinner.html Tiffanie

    OH, you’ve got our number. Our husband and I devour these things when they are in season, as they will be again soon. We char them in our iron skillet, and sometimes that’s all we have for dinner (oh, with a little Manchego and some red wine on the side)!

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