Little Green Hot Peppers from Padrón (Vegan)

As the proverb goes, “Ones are spicy, anothers don’t.” Indeed.

Ones are spicy, anothers don't.

The little green hot peppers in question are known as “Pimientos de Padrón” and originally hail from the state of Galicia in Northern Spain. I first learned about said peppers while living in Santiago de Compostela several years ago. I can’t speak for the rest of Spain, but I do know you can’t spend much time in Santiago before you notice that every 10th tourist is sporting a t-shirt proclaiming the celebrity of the tasty peppers in a delightfully awkward translation from the Castilian Spanish, “LITTLE GREEN HOT PEPPERS FROM PADRÓN, ONES ARE SPICY, ANOTHERS DON’T” (pictured at right).

In Castilian Spanish, the proverb actually goes “Algunos te pican, otros no,” for which the direct translation is “Ones sting you, others do not.” Which clearly doesn’t translate well to English either. Essentially, this particular saying just highlights the disparity between how Spanish and English treat indefinite pronouns, not to mention how we express spiciness – as a state versus as an action. Personally, I like to think of spiciness as an action, and I think the mistranslation captures the truth of the matter more concisely and appropriately in its inobeisance of grammar constructs. (No, inobeisance isn’t a word. I made it up because it meant what I meant. My kitchen is free from the tyranny of language rules.)

Anyway. These little green hot peppers are so ubiquitous in Galicia that it’s hard to even have one drink at a bar without someone serving you a few as a free tapa. I do not exaggerate. They’re so everywhere all the time that people are giving them away for free. Which is how I quickly came to learn to prepare them myself. And the truth is, they are super easy to make as a quick appetizer or snack at home. The hardest part (in San Diego, anyway) is getting your hands on some of them. They sometimes have them at Whole Foods or other grocery stores. We usually get them from  Suzie’s Farm at our nearby Farmer’s Market. You could also join their CSA and presumably have access to peppers of Padrón whenever they’re in season, as well as plenty of other awesome vegetables.

Pimientos de Padrón

  • 1/2 lb peppers of Padrón
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Lots of salt

I was taught this method of preparing peppers of Padrón by a lifelong resident of Galicia. He basically said to me, “Heat a lot of oil in a pan. When it is hot, throw in the peppers. The oil will splatter. Ignore it. Well, don’t burn yourself on it, just don’t be stupid. Afterwards, stir in an amount of salt which is far more than you think you should, and after you’ve done that, add even more. You will probably never put enough salt in, because you will think nothing should have that much salt. But you will be wrong.”

It’s true. Every time I’ve made these, I’ve thought I put an insane amount of salt in, and afterwards I’ve thought, “Gosh, that really could have used more salt.” Though they’re still delicious anyway.

So, fry them in salt, stirring frequently, until the peppers are blistered and browned. Serve hot, but not too hot (don’t want to bite into boiling oil, you know).

And by the way, beware. Some of them are spicy and others aren’t.

Spanish(esque?) Zucchini Leek Dip (Vegetarian)

Well, I was driving to work the other day, and some dude on the radio was saying something to this effect:

“It’s based on a common Spanish dish. You use pureed zucchini, leeks, cilantro … it also has manchego and red pepper flakes. It’s a dip. It’s my signature dish. But I can’t tell you the recipe, I’d have to kill you. No really, I’ll never share the recipe.”

So I thought to myself, pureed zucchini, leek, cilantro and manchego? And it’s a dip? And it’s supposed to taste a little Spanish? I can do it.

(All due respect, it really was Spain.)

Now, having lived in Spain, I can say that I have no idea about any common Spanish dishes involving pureed zucchini, however, I did live in Northern Spain, and things are different there. In fact, there is a more-than-negligible contingent of people who do not consider Spain to have legitimate sovereignty over them. Hence, if you travel through, say, Galicia, you’re bound to see a lot of graffiti that says “This is not Spain,” “No es España,” or “Nom e Espanha” (the Gallego equivalent thereof).

In any case, what I came up with was a totally random invention, I have no idea if it even remotely resembles any real Spanish dishes (though I fancy it does taste a little Spanish, mostly owing to the leek & manchego). I also have no idea if it remotely approximates the actual dish that the radio dude was talking about. What I do know is that it passed the J approval test, and was an interesting and tasty dip, albeit rather rich. I think it would be great for parties or as a tapa or something. Also, I will continue to experiment with it, so please check back from time to time for modifications to the current recipe if you’re interested.

Spanish-Esque Zucchini Leek Dip

1 zucchini
1 carefully cleaned leek
2 – 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Handful of cilantro (~1/4 cup)
½ cup shredded manchego cheese
2 tbsp cream cheese
2 tbsp vegetable stock (if desired)
Salt
Red pepper flakes

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Oil a roasting pan, baking pan, or iron skillet. Add the zucchini, leek and garlic and toss a bit so they are coated with oil. Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for ~20 – 25 minutes.

Once the veggies are roasted, transfer them to a food processor and puree until they are … um, pureed. At this point you may add the cheeses, cilantro, salt and red pepper flakes. I recommend adding them in portions and tasting frequently until you get to the desired flavor & consistency. If it becomes too dry, that would be the time to add the soup stock.