Successful appetizers manage to pack serious taste sensation into a small, bite-sized package. When the food is eaten in one gulp, there’s no room for meek spices or filler of any sort. That’s where these easy, intensely flavorful little snacks come in. After an over-enthusiastic purchase that resulted in many leftover shishito peppers, I soon was forced to scheme up new ways to use up my bounty, beyond the traditional grilling method. Contrasting flavors were the name of the game, and so I turned to the humble sweet potato. The gentle sweetness of those orange-fleshed tubers seems to both accentuate and mellow the heat of those green chiles, effortlessly adding another dimension. Despite how deceptively easily they come together, they’re quite complex in flavor, and had me reaching for a second, and a third, before I knew it.
Shishito Pepper Poppers
1 Pound Sweet Potatoes, Peeled and Cubed
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1/2 Pound Shishito Peppers
1 Canned Chipotle in Adobo, Finely Minced
1/4 Cup Coconut Milk
1 Tablespoon Non-Dairy Margarine or Coconut Oil, Melted
1 Tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
Pinch Cayenne Pepper (Optional)
Chopped Walnuts or Pecans (Optional)
Chopped Fresh Parsley or Cilantro, for Garnish
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with a silpat, aluminum foil, or parchment paper.
Toss the peeled cubes of sweet potato and with the oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper so that the pieces are all evenly coated. Spread them out on your prepared baking sheet in one even layer, and roast until fork-tender and lightly browned around the edges; about 20 – 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for at least 5 – 10 minutes before proceeding, so that they’re easier to handle.
Meanwhile, you can go ahead and prep your shishito peppers. Slice each on in half, and carefully remove the seeds and white inner membrane. Set aside.
To complete the filling, take your roasted potatoes and add the minced chipolte, coconut milk, margarine or coconut oil, sugar, and cinnamon. Mash thoroughly, until mostly smooth but with a few small chunks remaining for texture. If you really like it hot, go ahead and add in cayenne pepper, to taste, but bear in mind that the shishitos will add a good deal of spice to the party, too. For a crunchy contrast, toss in a handful of finely chopped nuts, in desired. Fold in so that the pieces are well distributed.
Spoon or pipe the mashed sweet potatoes into your halved peppers. You may have leftover filling, but it makes for a fantastic side dish all on its own, too. Line up the stuffed peppers on the same baking sheet you just used. No need to clean it; the leftover oil will help to prevent the peppers from sticking. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the peppers have wilted slightly and are tender. Let cool before serving, top with parsley or cilantro if desired, and serve warm or at room temperature.