15 April 2010

Pea Shoots

Is there anything more evocative of spring than delicate, baby pea shoots? Maybe pencil-thin asparagus. Or fluffy yellow chicks. Oh and newborn lambs! Ok, so there are lots of springy things out there but I'm going to try to focus on pea shoots for a bit since they're my most exciting recent food discovery.

If you haven't ever tried pea shoots I suggest you hightail it to your local farmer's market stat, before the season's over. If you can't find them there, you might also check Asian groceries--it seems pea shoots are common in Chinese cuisine. If you love sugar snap peas like I do you'll be happy to discover that the shoots taste, well, pretty much exactly like sugar snap peas! Their leafy texture, though, suggests different types of preparation.

Just picked and very young, delicate shoots can be eaten raw as a salad or mixed in with other salad greens (try an Asian-inspired dressing with rice vinegar, ginger, and sesame oil). More mature shoots are great chopped or torn into smaller pieces and quickly sauteed or stir-fried in a little oil and garlic, just enough to wilt and tenderize (word of caution--these little guys shrink to almost nothing when cooked so start out with a lot more than you think). You can tell a mature shoot by the presence of a spring-like coiled tendril at its tip which you should take the time to pinch off, otherwise your shoots will stick together in a big, tangled clump no matter how you prepare them. Trust me. Mix cooked shoots in with some soba noodles, small chunks of smoked tofu, and a similar Asian dressing and you have a delicious, easy lunch or dinner in a bowl!

Or, for a Frenchy twist, you can do what I did and make an omelet. Paired with a salad of mixed greens and baby beets and a glass of wine, it made for a taste of spring that made me wish, again, that this season would last forever. Or at least longer than it usually does in Texas!

PS: Now that I'm turned on to these delicious little guys, I'm eager to learn more ways to cook with them. If you're familiar with pea shoots, what's your favorite way to cook and eat them? Please do share.

Springtime Omelet with Pea Shoots
1 serving
1 small clove garlic, pressed or minced
two generous handfulls (maybe two cups) of pea shoots, trimmed, chopped into 2 inch pieces
2 fresh farm eggs, lightly beaten with a splash of milk or cream
1 tablespoon butter

Parmesan cheese, grated, to taste

salt and pepper to taste

optional: a slice or two of prosciutto if you're feeling decadent (I was)

Add half the butter to a small hot pan and when foaming, toss in the garlic and pea shoots, stirring for a minute or two until the leaves wilt. Remove from pan. Add the rest of the butter (and more or oil if you need it) to the pan and when it foams add the eggs. Let cook until the egg begins to harden around the edges of the pan. Spoon the pea shoots over the middle of the omelet, grate cheese over the whole thing, and sprinkle salt and pepper over the top (also add the prosciutto if using). With a rubber spatula, gently fold the omelet in half or in thirds (taco style--my preferred method) and cook a bit longer until the eggs are no longer runny. Turn out of the pan onto a plate and dig in!

1 comment:

LaLaLaLeah said...

Beautiful post! Beautiful to read and look at. Quite a lovely meal! Hope to find some at the farmers market this weekend... Thanks for the inspiration.