May 1, 2013

The Maine Ingredient: Spring: Time to mind your peas and shoots

By ANNE MAHLE

Fresh peas from the garden are one of those heralds of spring and then summer that are marked by snips of moments that signal the transformation into a new season.

click image to enlarge

Fresh peas offer green options through spring and well into summer. At right, an early-season application: Pea shoots with red peppers and red onion.

Elizabeth Poisson photo

The end of winter is official when the first pea seeds go into the ground, no matter that there could be another snow on the horizon; the surety that it will be short-lived brings hope. Again, when the first pea shoots are ready for cutting, spring is unequivocally in bloom. Finally, when the first peas are ready for picking, summer MUST have arrived. Hopefully, the pea picking happens before your neighbor's peas in the time-honored race to have them before anyone else ... and before the Fourth of July.

All parts of the pea plant, as with many vegetables, are edible. The shoots, the pods and the seeds all have a slightly different taste, but all are redolent of bright, sweet, somewhat nutty and lemony peas. Those same flavors are echoed in the pairings that one might choose for a vegetable medley.

To grow pea shoots, which can be cooked or eaten raw like other salad green, is no different than growing peas themselves. When you snip, cut only the first several inches, and at a juncture to encourage more growth. It is still possible to get peas after pea-shoot harvest, but the plant can be less vigorous and the fruit definitely comes a bit later than with those that are left to simply grow and take off.

SNAP PEA, ALMOND AND FETA SALAD

8 ounces snap peas, about 2 to 3 cups

1/4 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped

2 ounces crumbled feta cheese, less than 1/4 cup

3 ounces baby greens or mesclun mix, about 4 cups

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Pinch or two of salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the snap peas for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from water immediately and submerse in very cold water until chilled. Drain well. With your hands, gently combine all ingredients in a large salad bowl. Serve immediately.

Servings: Four

LEMONY PEAS, PEA SHOOTS AND TOMATOES

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup sliced onions

2 cups fresh peas

3 ounces pea shoots, about 3 cups

3 ounces baby spinach, about 3 cups

1 cup diced tomatoes

Several pinches of salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

1 tablespoon lemon zest; zest from one lemon

3 tablespoons lemon juice; juice from 1/2 a lemon

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Heat the extra virgin olive oil and add the onions. When the onions are just beginning to turn translucent, about 7 minutes, add the fresh peas. Saute for another 2 minutes and add the rest of the ingredients except the lemon juice. Turn gently but quickly with tongs for a minute or so, or until the greens begin to wilt but are still a little fluffy. Add the lemon juice and serve immediately.

Servings: Four

PEA SHOOTS WITH RED PEPPERS AND RED ONION

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup sliced red onion, about 1/2 red onion

2 cups cored and seeded red pepper, sliced, about 1 red pepper

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

1 garlic clove, sliced

8 ounces pea shoots, about 8 cups

3 tablespoons lemon juice, about 1/2 a lemon

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the red onion and pepper and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, or until veggies are cooked but still firm. Add the salt, pepper and garlic slices and saute for another minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and turn gently with tongs for another minute or so.

Serve immediately.

Servings: Four

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of "At Home, At Sea." She can be reached at chefannie@mainewindjammer.com

 

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