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Blistered Shishito Salsa with Roasted Cod

September 5, 2013

Roasted Cod with Blistered Shishito SalsaPin it!

It may seem backwards to title this post “Salsa with Roasted Cod” instead of “Roasted Cod with Salsa,” but this is a salsa-centric recipe; to be honest, the whitefish fillet underneath the salsa was an afterthought.

Dicing up green shishito peppers, bound for fresh salsa, transported me back to Japan nearly ten (!) years ago when I had just started getting to know my now-close-friend Mimi.

After I prodded and pestered my way into her life, seeking the company of another native English speaker my age, in our rural-ish Japanese town (before I could put more than two or three words of Japanese together), we discovered that we had in common not only a nerdy love of language learning, but also a hedonistic, sentimental, and impassioned love of food.

Green Shishito Peppers

This led to the loveliest of Thursday night rituals—a weekly dinner out with Mimi at our beloved Orange Cafe, frequent weekend lunches at our town’s one and only Indian restaurant, and—occasionally—actually cooking together.

Blistered Shishito SalsaPin it!

(I think of almost every incidence of cooking when I lived in Japan as something of a feat. Consider this: fresh produce is ridiculously expensive; unless you’re cooking Japanese food, the right ingredients and spices are difficult to find; at home in your tiny apartment you have only one burner, no oven or toaster oven, a microwave, a rice cooker, and a severe dearth of counterspace. Combine that with the fact that all Japanese restaurant food is amazingly delicious and often perfectly affordable, and you end up with a recipe for never cooking. Well, almost never.)

Making Blistered Shishito Salsa

Mimi and I first bonded over an Indian egg curry I cooked up in her kitchen, but even that now seems remarkably ambitious, considering we moved on to far less demanding dip swapping after that: I’d make hummus, and she’d make fresh shishito salsa. (Yes, this is really her recipe.)

Making Blistered Shishito Salsa

We spent one memorable, long, enjoyable afternoon sitting around her apartment, eating the fruits of our labors: my hummus, Mimi’s shishito salsa, and my fresh mango salsa (after I splurged on a five-dollar mango). Mimi had invited several of her friends and co-workers over for chips and dip, but the invitation was so last minute that no one was free to join us at the same time as anyone else, so instead we had a rotating parade of one house guest at a time, stopping by for chips and dip, as if three-person chip-and-dip parties were the most ordinary things in the world.

Blistered Shishito SalsaPin it!

It only recently occurred to me to re-create Mimi’s salsa with the fresh green shishitos from my local tiny Japanese market.

Blistered Shishito SalsaPin it!

I should mention that I possibly love this salsa more out of nostalgia than out of deliciousness. Shishitos are not as spicy as jalapeños or serranos, and sometimes have a slight raw-green-bell-pepper harshness to their flavor, but that is what we had to work with in Western Japan… However, if you pan-fry the peppers until they blacken and blister, it will take away some of the sharp spicy flavor, giving them more of a roasted-bell-pepper mildness. I prefer a mix of some blistered and some fresh shishitos, for a still-mild salsa with a little edge to it. (The blistered peppers are much easier to seed and de-vein than the fresh ones.)

Blistered Shishito Peppers

The salsa is refreshing and addictive with salty tortilla chips, a Japanese take on pico de gallo, made even better by adding some (very un-Japanese) cilantro.

Blistered Shishito Salsa

Served on top of roasted whitefish, though, it is divine. The flaky, buttery fish erases any trace of bitter green bell pepper from the garnish. Instead the citrusy fresh salsa complements the fish, with just a hint of shishito spice, making it infinitely more appetizing (in my humble, new-to-enjoying-cooked-fish opinion).

Roasted Cod or Halibut with Blistered Shishito SalsaPin it!

We’ve been attempting to eat more fish lately, mostly falling back on salmon (which I know I can always enjoy smothered in a yogurt sauce), but occasionally branching out to cod or halibut. Our serendipitous pairing of cod with shishito salsa is pictured here, but any type of white fish would do.

Making Blistered Shishito Salsa

I may have added this salsa back into my repertoire for the nostalgia trip, but it will now be sticking around as a garnish for halibut or cod. (Or maybe it’s the other way around—halibut and cod will be sticking around to accompany my shishito salsa.)

Blistered Shishito Salsa

A note about spiciness: Shishitos are labeled, in my local Japanese market at least, as “sweet” green peppers. I specify below that you should use about ten shishito peppers for one large tomato. It turns out, according to this Wikipedia entry for shishitos, that about one out of every ten peppers is spicy. But there’s no way to tell which is which just by looking at them, so use at least ten shishitos for a little more bite.

Green Shishito Peppers for Blistered Shishito Salsa

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Blistered Shishito Salsa with Roasted Cod

(Serves 2-3)

Salsa Ingredients:
~ 10 (or more) shishito peppers
~ 1 Tbsp. olive oil or sunflower oil
~ 1 large tomato, diced
~ 2 cloves garlic, minced
~ 3 Tbsp. diced white onion (about ¼ white onion)
~ generous amount of salt, to taste
~ black pepper, to taste
~ fresh lime juice (or lemon juice), to taste
~ cilantro, chopped (optional)

For the Roasted Whitefish:
~ 2-3 whitefish fillets (weighing ¼-½ lb. each), such as cod or halibut
~ 3 Tbsp. olive oil to brush on parchment paper and fish
~ 2-3 Tbsp. melted butter (optional)
~ squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice
~ salt, to taste
~ black pepper, to taste (optional)

How to make it:

1. Blister half or all of the shishito peppers by heating oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, then frying the peppers, turning several times, until blackened and blistered. Transfer blistered peppers to a paper towel to drain and cool. Seed and de-vein all of the peppers, whether blistered or fresh, then finely dice.

Making Blistered Shishito SalsaMaking Blistered Shishito Salsa

2. Combine the diced peppers with the other salsa ingredients, and season with salt, pepper, lime juice, and cilantro to taste.

Making Blistered Shishito SalsaMaking Blistered Shishito Salsa

3. For the roasted whitefish: Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and brush the parchment with a little olive oil.

4. Place the fish fillets on the parchment and brush with additional olive oil (or melted butter—which will help it to not dry out), and optionally a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, and roast until fish is done (8-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets). Be careful not to overcook (fish should flake easily when tested with a fork or knife, and should be opaque all the way through).

Top warm roasted fish with several spoonfuls of shishito salsa and serve.

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Roasted Cod or Halibut with Blistered Shishito SalsaPin it!

Blistered Shishito SalsaPin it!

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Squash Blossom Quesadillas with Saffron Charred Tomato Salsa Cilantro Lime Moules Frites Paprika Gambas Al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp Tapas) Hiyayakko (Japanese Tofu with Ginger and Scallions)
34 Comments leave one →
  1. meg permalink
    September 5, 2013 9:17 am

    I love Shishito peppers! I haven’t put them in salsa yet, I’ll have to try it.

    • September 5, 2013 9:31 am

      Yes, if you love shishito peppers, you should definitely try this! They have such a distinct flavor… I like adding them to all sorts of random dishes. :)

  2. September 5, 2013 10:00 am

    This looks divine and is making me very hungry indeed. Are Shishito peppers similar to Padron peppers? They certainly look similar.

    • September 5, 2013 10:05 am

      Yes, they are similar! (Especially in the sense that most of them are mild but every once in a while, one will be pretty spicy!)

      Just in terms of how they look, though, I think most shishitos are a little thinner than padrón peppers, and more bizarrely-shaped/wrinkly.

      • September 5, 2013 10:12 am

        mmm they look good. I wonder where I can source them in London?

      • September 5, 2013 10:15 am

        I would try your biggest Asian market, especially if it’s a Korean/Japanese-focused store with plenty of produce, or else search for a smaller specifically-Japanese food store—that’s where I can find shishitos in my town.

  3. September 5, 2013 10:34 am

    What a shame fresh produce is so expensive in Japan. I’ll have to keep my eye out for these peppers. They sound lovely.

    • September 5, 2013 10:39 am

      I know; it’s crazy! I mean it definitely depends on the fruit/vegetable and whether it’s grown in Japan or imported from elsewhere, but it can all get pretty pricey. I mentioned having bought a five-dollar mango, but I’ve also seen mangoes for sale for more like $20! (And then there are the melons for sale for $100, but those are fancy ones that are specifically to be given as gifts.)

      I remember when I lived there, I was trying to be frugal at the grocery store (despite going out to eat for every other meal…) so I would mostly buy things to eat other than fresh fruit. I complained about this over the phone to my parents, and my mom got upset and worried that I wasn’t ever treating myself to enough fruit like fresh strawberries, so she offered/threatened to send me money JUST so I could splurge on strawberries! (But then I had to tell her, “no, mom, it’s ok… I do have a job and an income… I promise I’ll buy myself some strawberries.”)

      • September 5, 2013 10:42 am

        Aren’t mums lovely! My mum would do the same thing. Money would be slipped into my purse. So I’d slip something into her purse. LOL

        $100! That’s insane. Was it because some of this stuff was marketed as exotic?

  4. September 5, 2013 11:23 am

    Looks very delicious and simple to make.. I love fish and the combination looks fantastic! I’ll make it for sure!

  5. September 5, 2013 1:13 pm

    Mi piace molto questa ricetta. La salsa è favolosa e molto strana. È Giapponese, sembra Messicana, ma potrebbe essere Mediterranea, tipo del Sud Italia o Provenzale. Molto interessante.

  6. September 6, 2013 12:09 am

    you did it again. shishito salsa? yes.

    my solution to the age-old “japanese produce costs an arm and a leg” is the damaged goods section of the grocery store. you can find a plethora of fruits and veggies that are 90% off just because they aren’t perfectly round or have some slight discoloration. just yesterday i purchased a bag of about 20 shishito for 80 yen just because they were a little on the small side.

    you can bet your butt i know how i’m going to use them now.

    also, i have a sauteed pork and blistered shishito crostini i make that is to die for. it seems like it might be right up your alley based on this recipe.

    • September 8, 2013 4:52 pm

      Nice! I’m not sure I ever saw a damaged goods section in the big grocery stores in Okayama… although come to think of it, back when I lived in Yamaguchi-ken, one of the smaller grocery stores there might have had that kind of section.

      Anyway, I like your solution! Wish I’d paid more attention and looked out for that when I lived in Japan. (There’s an apple stand at the Santa Barbara farmer’s market that always has a box of cheaper apples off to the side, labeled “visually distressed.” I love that.)

      Anything with shishitos is right up my alley, but I don’t eat pork, so I’d need to make it a sauteed something-else and blistered shishito crostini… sounds good, though! :)

  7. September 6, 2013 1:49 am

    Gosh, everything looks amazing! Am drooling away.

  8. September 6, 2013 2:35 am

    I’ve never heard of these peppers before but sure love the look of that salsa. Food shared with friends is always the best.

    • September 8, 2013 5:39 pm

      That’s so true! (And that’s why I mentioned that I possibly love this salsa more out of nostalgia than deliciousness… good memories with friends make all the difference.)

  9. September 6, 2013 4:30 am

    Fresh and super delicious, the colours in this and flavours mesh beautifully :D


  10. September 6, 2013 10:07 am

    I love this! I somehow just discovered blistered shishitos this past year and their American cousin the padron. So much fun to eat just blistered and then topped with a bit of olive oil and salt. But this is such a great story and I just love the idea of it, either as a salsa for dipping or topping the fish. Definitely going to give it a try!

    • September 8, 2013 5:44 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Beth! Yes, they are definitely fun to eat just blistered with olive oil and salt. Yum. Unfortunately Paula doesn’t care for cooked peppers (even though she’ll happily snack on raw ones), so I’ve never gotten to fry up a batch just for part of our meal (though I suppose if I did, I would have them all to myself!). Also, I’ve never eaten padron peppers that way so I’m not sure if it’s the same with them, but every tenth shishito is spicy enough to make eating it a little… less fun. :)

  11. September 8, 2013 8:10 pm

    Loved your presentation! I’m still learning to make fish look good :)

    • September 8, 2013 10:38 pm

      Haha, thanks! :) I know what you mean! (Especially with whitefish… somehow salmon always looks better since at least it has more color to it.)

  12. September 9, 2013 12:15 pm

    I always associated salsa with Tex-Mex. But I guess it doesn’t matter what you call it– it looks delicious!

    • September 12, 2013 7:56 am

      Really? Like with Tex-Mex more than just Mexican food? Interesting! I guess I’ve created a whole new type of fusion here with Mexican + Japanese… Mex-ese? :)

  13. chapmanlcheryl permalink
    September 11, 2013 12:48 pm

    That looks AMAZING! Thanks for the recipe.

  14. September 14, 2013 11:20 pm

    Shishito peppers are AWESOME and I like saying the word Shishito! :) Beautifully done! :)


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