(Note: this post was originally published on June 21, 2020. The date above reflects migration to the new platform.)
Heat Meets Sweet
Shishito peppers are having a moment, and with good reason. They're delicious and so fun! I love having them as happy hour finger food, which is how I see them most often. But they're a wonderful salad ingredient, especially in a fresh, bright salad like this one! This salad features all sorts of light, bright, crisp, flavorful fruits and veggies and is the perfect harmony of flavors. There's flavorful and zesty shishitos, sweet succulent mango, zippy pickled onions, luscious creamy avocado, crunchy pepitas, and refreshing mint.
If you're not familiar with shishito peppers, they've recently become trendy at least in part because their heat level is unpredictable. Most are quite mild, but some are hot! I've heard that one in ten is hot, although in my experience it's more like one in fifteen, which makes them so fun to eat. But don't let this scare you away- the mild ones are very mild, and the "hot" ones are less spicy than a jalapeno, so even the hot ones are tasty (and a bit surprising!).
In this salad, I've treated the shishito peppers just like the classic appetizer- simply blistered in a hot skillet. They're such a fun pepper, I like to keep them simple and let them be the star of this salad. The other ingredients really complement the complexity of their flavor.
The base of this salad is the humble Napa cabbage, which is actually one of my favorite salad bases (for example, see this Tropical Pad Thai Salad). Cabbages last in the fridge forever, so they're great to have on-hand. Napa is more delicate than other cabbages, both in terms of texture and flavor, so it's less cabbage-y overall.
The other great part about cabbage is that you can load it up with flavor and all the toppings imaginable. The cabbage can take it, and in fact excels with big bold flavors. I like to cut the leaves into thin ribbons and then let them marinate in an acidic dressing while I work on the other ingredients. Could lettuce stand up to that sort of treatment? No way!
Make It Work for YOU
This is a really easy salad to switch up. You could use kale instead of cabbage, papaya instead of mango, cilantro instead of mint, or charred poblanos instead of shishitos. Adding some charred corn cut off the cob when it's in season would be great.
Want to make this salad into a meal? No problem! Adding your favorite grain underneath (a bed of quinoa or black rice would be delicious) and/or a grilled protein on top would make it feel dinner-appropriate. I've also served this alongside some slow-cooked black beans and the combination is delicious. Because the cabbage is so hearty, it can really stand up to some heavy add-ons.
To prep this salad in advance, you can marinate the cabbage as much as a few hours ahead of time. It actually gets more tender and tasty that way! You can also cut the mango and cook the peppers. Just keep the cabbage, sliced mango, and cooked peppers in separate containers in the fridge. Don't cut up the avocado and mint until you're ready to eat, and keep the pepitas separate until the last minute so they don't get soggy. When you're ready to eat, just assemble!
Let's Talk Ingredients
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Napa cabbage. I don't suggest substituting another type of cabbage here; it will be too assertive. But if you really want to, use purple cabbage, cut it very thinly, and let it sit in the dressing for at least a few hours and maybe overnight.
Lime juice. Fresh squeezed!!
Salt and pepper
Cooking oil. Because you'll blister the peppers at high heat, you definitely need to work with a cooking oil that has a high smoke point. I find olive oil to be the easiest, although coconut oil will work if you're careful.
Pickled red onions. You can buy these, or even better, make your own! They're easy and so delicious. Just slice them thinly, submerge them in cider vinegar, add a big handful of sugar and a palmful of salt, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let them go for 5-10 minutes, or until they reach your desired level of softness, then drain.
Handful of fresh mint. Or use cilantro (or both!) for a different flavor profile.
Roasted salted pepitas
Chili salt. Or use chili powder, or your favorite finishing salt.
This is a salad that I keep coming back to, again and again. It works beautifully as a light summery dinner, and it's easy enough to pull together quickly on a busy evening. But it also feels special and unique enough for entertaining, so I've made it numerous times when we've had friends over for grilling on the deck.
Whether you're new to shishito peppers or are a long-time lover, I hope you'll try this salad! While I adore shishitos as a finger food, they can do so much more than that. They're really the star of the show here, and are so nicely complemented by the other ingredients in the salad.
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
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Sweet mango, zippy pickled onions, creamy avocado, and spicy shishito peppers unite to create a very fresh and surprising flavor profile. This summery salad is the perfect accompaniment for grilling on the deck!
One small head or half a large head of Napa cabbage
Juice of a lime
0.5 tsp cumin
Dash of agave
Generous salt and pepper
15-20 shishito peppers
Oil of choice for cooking
Big handful of pickled red onions
Handful of fresh mint
Small handful of roasted salted pepitas
Sprinkle of chili salt
First, get the cabbage ready so that it can sit and tenderize. Cut it into thin ribbons perpendicular to the stem and put the ribbons in a large mixing bowl with the lime juice, cumin, agave, salt, and pepper. Give it all a good toss, and let it sit. Toss it every time you walk by.
Blister the shishito peppers in a skillet over high heat with a generous splash of oil. Keep the oil below the smoke point, and toss the peppers frequently. Cook for about ten minutes, until the flesh is blistered and the peppers are soft, then salt them generously.
While the peppers are cooking, prep your other salad ingredients. Slice the mango and avocado, chop some mint, and drain the onions from the pickling liquid.
Assemble! Put a bed of cabbage on the bottom and layer all of the other fruits and veggies on top. Finish with a handful of fresh mint and some roasted pepitas, then a little sprinkling of chili salt.