Pantry: It’s pepper season in Sonoma County!

Baskets of colorful peppers, both sweet and hot, are making their debut at Sonoma County farmers markets.|

Pepper season is in full swing, with piles of colorful sweet peppers, baskets of hot peppers and the sweet aromas of chiles as they roast filling our farmers markets. Everything from the tiny lemon drop and the long curly Jimmy Nardello to plump poblanos and bells beckon from dozens of stalls in every market. It is time for chile rellenos, chile verde, posole, fermented hot sauces and one of the easiest of all nibbles, blistered Padrons and Shishitos, once hard to find and now ubiquitous.

A decade ago, the Padron, a small chile from the Galicia region of Spain, was the delicacy of the moment. Jill Adams of Crescent Moon Farm was the first to offer it locally and you had to arrive at the farmers market early or miss out. Soon she introduced Shishitos and before long, other farmers were growing both.

Now you can find them at Trader Joe’s in the middle of winter. The best, of course, are those grown locally and offered in their own true season.

Shishitos are the “it” chile this year. Customers who once couldn’t get enough Padrons now pass them by and ask for the larger Shishito.

It seems people are afraid of Padrons, which are known casually as Russian Roulette peppers. About one in ten are hot. Some are only mildly hot; others pack a wallop and there is no way to tell by looking at them. If you are not accustomed to such heat, you won’t find the experience pleasant, though it will take only a few to boost your tolerance. When this happens, you’ll be able to appreciate both the heat and the complex flavor and slightly meatier texture.

Padrons do heat up as the season progresses, especially if they are allowed to grow larger than about the size of the first joint of your thumb. By late September, there is a greater percentage of hot ones, but the ones I’ve enjoyed recently have been mild and delicious.

The Jimmy Nardello chile is also becoming increasingly popular. It is typically picked when it is red and it has a sweet flavor, with very meaty flesh. This chile can be seared just as Padrons and Shishitos are but it is more common to find Nardellos incorporated into dishes rather than served on their own.

These chiles barely warrant an actual recipe, as the technique for preparing them is quite simple and they are best served neat, with maybe a squeeze of lemon on lime. You can enjoy them with other foods but I find it best to do so by using them as a garnish or a side dish.

The skin of Padrons and Shishitos is quite thin and there is no need to peel it. Jimmy Nardello skin is typically thicker and I prefer to peel it before enjoying the chile.

Fried Chiles

Serves 4 to 6, easily doubled

8 ounces Padrons, Shishitos, Jimmy Nardellos or a combination

- Olive oil

1 lemon wedge

- Maldon Salt Flakes or other flake salt

- Black pepper in a mill

Set a heavy pan, such as cast iron, over high heat and add just enough olive oil to coat the pan with a thin film. Add the chiles and toss frequently, until the skins blister and they begin to soften and take on a bit of color.

Transfer to a platter, add a squeeze of lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and enjoy right away.


This is a fun way to prepare chiles when you are cooking outside and serving a crowd.

Grilled Chiles

Serves 6 to 10

- Long bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

1 pound Padrons, Shishitos, Jimmy Nardellos or a combination

- Olive oil

- Maldon Salt Flakes or other flake salt

- Black pepper in a mill

Build a fire in an outdoor grill.

But the chiles into a large bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and toss to coat each chile.

Thread chiles on the skewers. Do so by variety, instead of mixing types.

For Padrons, hold a chile near its stem end and press the skewer through the chile itself, piercing it crosswise, not lengthwise, through its middle. Add as many Padrons as each skewer will hold without crowding.

For Shishitos, hold a chile by its stem end and pierce it crosswise near just below the seed pod, which you should be able to feel easily. Press a second skewer through the chile near its tip. Continue loading chiles onto the two skewers without crowding them.

Prepare Jimmy Nardellos the same way as Shishitos, by using two skewers.

Set the skewers of chiles on the grill rack and turn as soon as they are seared on their undersides; time will vary based on the heat of the coals. Turn and sear on the second side.

Transfer to a platter, season with salt and pepper and enjoy hot.

Michele Anna Jordan has written 24 books to date, including the new “Good Cook’s” series. Email Jordan at You’ll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at



Serving suggestions for Padrons, Shishitos & Jimmy Nardellos

Scatter minced garlic over the chiles before adding lemon juice.

Serve any of these chiles with homemade aioli or Romesco sauce for dipping.

Use all Shishitos and omit the lemon. Season the fried chiles with a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil, a squeeze of lime juice and toasted sesame seeds or gomashio (a blend of tasted sesame seeds, toasted seaweed and salt).

Make hummus (for my recipe, visit Eat This Now at, put it in a bowl and set on a wide platter. Surround the hummus with fried or grilled chiles; swirl each chile in the hummus just before eating it.

Serve fried Padrons alongside and over eggs over easy or sunny side up, with toasted bread.

Set one burrata in the middle of a platter and season it with salt, pepper and a generous drizzle of the best extra-virgin olive oil you have. Surround with fried or grilled chiles, either a single variety or a mix, with hot hearth bread alongside for sopping up the delicious juices.

Cut 8 ounces of mozzarella fresca into thin slices and spread over a platter. Top with fried Padrons or Shishitos, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy with toasted croutons.

Spread about 6 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto over a platter and top with thinly sliced mozzarella fresca. Season generously with several turns of black pepper and top with fried Padrons. Season with flake salt and enjoy right away, with toasted croutons.

Scatter fried Padrons over queso fundido (see Eat This Now at immediately before serving.

After frying Jimmy Nardellos, let them cool a bit, peel them and remove their stems and seed cores. Add to a sliced and fried onion, toss with pasta and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a bit of good red-wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy as a warm or room temperature salad. To make it extra luscious, add grated cheese along with the pasta. Don’t worry about quantities; just use common sense, make it look good and make it taste good. Add torn basil leaves if you like.

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