The amazing variety of local produce available in California year-round makes us the envy of consumers and chefs everywhere. Take today’s pepper selection, for example: we’ve got fresh cayennes, Anaheims, Red Fresnos and shishitos, just to name a few. Since the heat in these peppers ranges from mild to fiery hot, there’s a pepper for every palate. In New York, Anaheim peppers are hard to find and can cost up to 10 times more than they do here in Santa Monica, and good luck finding fresh cayenne peppers in other parts of the country. So grab that reusable tote, head to your farmers’ market and take advantage of our rich selection of summertime peppers. Remember: the unassuming and smallest thin-skinned chiles will probably pack the most heat.
Chef Ted Hopson works an array of peppers into his dishes at The Bellwether in Studio City. One dish that showcases his passion for peppers is the ssamjang beef tartare. Chef Hopson slices Fresno chiles, fresh shishitos and bell peppers thin and garnishes them on top of raw beef and homemade Korean ssamjang paste. “As you eat it, you get the sweetness from the chiles, the vinegar from the pickled ones, some spiciness, some of the freshness and some of the crunch,” says Hopson. “It has everything you want: texture, flavor, heat.”
The Bellwether’s Ssamjang Beef Tartare
2½ oz beef tenderloin, small dice
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
⅓ tsp Toasted Rice Powder (see instructions below)
¾ oz Ssamjang Paste (recipe follows below)
Pickled Carrots, Serrano and Fresno Chile Peppers (recipe follows below)
Shishito peppers, sliced thinly
Lettuce stems, sliced thinly
Cabbage, sliced thinly
Bell pepper, deseeded and sliced thinly
Radish, sliced into wedges
For the rice powder: In a sauté pan over medium heat, toast a handful of dry white rice until golden brown, stirring frequently to prevent from burning. Remove from the hot pan and allow to cool. Then, transfer the toasted rice to a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.
For the tartare: In a medium-size bowl, combine the diced beef tenderloin with sesame oil and the Ssamjang Paste. Mix well.
To serve: Transfer the beef tartare to a shallow serving bowl or plate and garnish with the Toasted Rice Powder, the pickled and raw vegetables.
24 oz water
24 oz white vinegar
2½ oz kosher salt
Carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
Serrano chile peppers, sliced and seeds removed
Fresno chile peppers, sliced and seeds removed
Prepare the pickling liquid by combining the water, white vinegar and salt together in a large container. Mix well to dissolve the salt. Add the cut vegetables to the cold pickling liquid and let them sit overnight.
7 oz doenjang (Korean fermented bean paste)
1½ oz gochujang (Korean chile paste)
½ oz garlic, peeled and crushed
½ oz Sprite
1 oz gochugaru (Korean chile powder)
½ oz toasted sesame oil
Prepare the Ssamjang Paste by mixing all ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Set the paste aside until ready to use.