I took a breather last week. You may have noticed things were a little quiet here the last few days. While I wish I could tell you that I was on a remote island, digging my toes in fine sand while balancing a chilled glass of some rum-infused drink in one hand, I was very much here at home, working on some very exciting projects. And the time I allowed myself between projects was used to dig through cabinets, purging and organizing. We spent much of last weekend going through piles of old books, recycling papers, and giving our office space a good deep clean.
We go through these purges every so often, but for some reason, it is the books that give me the hardest time. For many years, books were the one possession I found hardest to let go – once a book was read (and reread), they were a part of me, a member of the family. The mere thought of getting rid of a book was extremely difficult. Some were badges of honor (like all those textbooks I kept from my clinical psychology program), some were mementos of childhood (Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice), and as I got older, sentimental bits of early motherhood (Goodnight Moon).
I’ve learned to say goodbye to many books – moving several times and dealing with a growing family and shrinking storage space will teach you how. But if it were up to me, I would have that library, tall towers of built in shelves lining the walls, surrounding me with these old friends.
Amid the purging and the projects, I stumbled across these plump Padrón Peppers at the market, to my surprise and excitement. The last time I bit into a Padrón, I was with my husband and our friends at Frances, in the Castro district. I was taken by the buttermilk aioli served alongside, cool and tangy, the perfect little pool of creaminess for dipping the just blistered, peppery Padróns. I knew Blistered Padrón Peppers with Buttermilk Aioli was something I needed to recreate at home, once I had a chance.
Have you had the chance to enjoy Padrón peppers? If not, I hope you do soon, they’re such a treat, especially if you love some spice…and the element of surprise. Padrón peppers are much like books, you see. Some are mild and pleasing. Others are punchy with incredible heat. You never know what you’re going to get. You just have to dig in. But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?
Blistered Padrón Peppers with Buttermilk Aioli
For the Buttermilk Aioli:
3 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
For the Blistered Padrón Peppers
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pints Padrón Peppers
Course salt (such as Kosher salt or sea flakes)
Make the Buttermilk Aioli:
Peel and mash the garlic along with the salt, finely mincing and pressing with the side of the knife to create a paste. Place the garlic in a small bowl, season with some freshly cracked black pepper and whisk in the egg yolk until it is creamy. As you whisk, begin to add the olive oil gradually: begin with just a few drops of olive oil, fully whisking until the yolks thicken and emulsify. Continue adding the olive oil in drops, then in a very slow stream, continually whisking. It should be thick and very creamy. Whisk in the buttermilk and season with cayenne pepper, sherry vinegar, and additional salt and pepper, to taste. Store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. This can be done a few days in advance.
Make the Blistered Padrón Peppers:
Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron would be ideal) over high heat. Add the olive oil, swirling the skillet to evenly coat. Drop in the Padrón peppers, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they pucker and wilt a little, with dark blisters on the skin. Season generously with salt and transfer to a serving dish.
Garnish with a little more salt if desired and serve while piping hot, with the Buttermilk Aioli.
Aioli sauce adapted from The Creamiest Aioli Recipe, Suzanne Goin, via Bon Appetit (April, 2012).