Blistered Shishito Salsa with Roasted Cod
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.
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.
(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.)
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.)
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.
It only recently occurred to me to re-create Mimi’s salsa with the fresh green shishitos from my local tiny Japanese market.
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.)
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.
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).
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.
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.)
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.
Print this recipe. (PDF)
Blistered Shishito Salsa with Roasted Cod
~ 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.
2. Combine the diced peppers with the other salsa ingredients, and season with salt, pepper, lime juice, and cilantro to taste.
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)
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