Soft produce such as these blister and brown so nicely under the intense heat of the grill. They absorb the flavours of the smoke and char, and transform from something raw and watery to a savory and robust treat. So to kick off grilling season, I created a simple and fast grilled vegetable dish that would play up the smoke and char.
The result — grilled shishito peppers and red onion rings. The raw veggies start with a simple toss in sesame oil, then land on the grill until tender and lightly browned. From there they go to a platter and get a hefty sprinkle of coarse salt and a drizzle of a pleasantly acidic peanut sauce. The whole delicious process takes just about 15 minutes.
These peppers and onions are ideal as a finger food to nibble on while the rest of the meal hits the grill. Pair them with a refreshing margarita.
GRILLED RED ONIONS AND SHISHITO PEPPERS WITH PEANUT SAUCE
Start to finish: 15 minutes
1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1-inch chunk fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
Splash hot sauce
1 pound shishito peppers
2 large red onions, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Kosher or other coarse salt
Heat the grill to medium-high.
In a blender, combine the peanut butter, vinegar, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sugar and hot sauce. Puree until smooth. Taste and adjust soy sauce, vinegar and hot sauce to desired taste. The sauce should be thin enough to drizzle easily. If not, add water 1 tablespoon at a time and blend. Set aside.
On a large serving platter, combine the peppers and onion slices. Drizzle with the oil, then toss gently until evenly coated. Try not to break apart the onion rings. Arrange the peppers and onions on the grill and cook, turning often, until evenly browned and tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
Return the peppers and onions to the platter. This time, let the onion slices separate into individual rings. Sprinkle the onions and peppers with salt, then drizzle with a bit of the peanut sauce. Serve with the remaining peanut sauce on the side for dipping.
Nutrition information per serving: 240 calories; 140 calories from fat (58 per cent of total calories); 15 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 420 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 7 g protein.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org