Posts Tagged ‘Pea Shoots’

Today’s recipe is another healthy, vegetable-laden dish– a fresh, simple soup that is brilliant served hot or cold.  See, I told you I was going to eat my weight in veggies.  This week the seasonal produce in my refrigerator– asparagus, pea shoots, and leeks– was just begging to be made into something wonderful.  This soup is the result.  It’s simple, though with seriously impressive flavors.  What I mean is, even though it comes together in about 30 minutes from start to finish (if you’re skilled with a chef’s knife), it tastes surprisingly complex.

From the first spoonful, you can distinctly taste each of the main vegetables.  Clean and crisp.  And the lemon adds that nice acidity that frames the flavors of the asparagus, pea shoots, and leeks.  As you stroll through the recipe, you’ll notice there are no herbs or spices (aside from salt and pepper).  For this soup, I wanted the pure flavor of the vegetables to stand out.  I also knew I didn’t want it packed with cream (though I love, love creamy soups).  Instead, I added a Yukon Gold potato to provide that smooth texture.

This soup is very good by itself– especially as a chilled Summer dish.  I also love it warm with a piece of toasted french bread and poached egg gently laid on top.  Magic happens where egg yolk meets soup.  Give it a try, you’ll see.  One last thing to keep in mind is that the balance of flavors in this soup stands or falls on how much lemon and salt you add.  As always, taste, taste, taste!

The Recipe: Spring Vegetable Soup

(Serves 4 — enjoy hot or cold)

1 quart chicken stock

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle

1 pound asparagus

1 large white onion, chopped

1 medium leek, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 large yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped

1 packed cup of pea shoots

squeeze of lemon

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

crusty french bread and poached eggs, optional

Prepare the asparagus by trimming the very ends.  If you have some thick ones, peel the last 1 1/2-inch of the stock with a vegetable peeler.  Cut off the tips of the asparagus and set aside.  Cut up the remaining asparagus into 1-inch pieces.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup kettle, add the olive oil.  Over medium heat, sauté the onion, leek, celery and a sprinkle of salt and pepper until tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, potato, and asparagus.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes and asparagus are tender.  Then, put the pea shoots into the soup and cook for about 1 minute, or until the pea shoots have wilted a bit.

Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.  Add the reserved asparagus tips and cook for about 2 minutes.  Remove from water and place into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Set aside.

Remove soup from heat.  Use an immersion blender or carefully pour the soup into a stand blender (in batches), blend the soup until creamy.  Season with a squeeze of lemon, to taste, as well as salt and pepper.  Seasoning this soup properly is key.  A bit more lemon or salt can make all the difference.   Add the asparagus tips to the soup or serve as a garnish on top.  This soup is wonderful served hot or cold.   It is outstanding served with toasted french bread and a poached egg on top.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It!  Have a fantastic weekend!


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Every once in awhile an idea for a recipe pops into my head, and I can’t believe I hadn’t considered it before.  On the one hand, I get a bit disappointed in myself for missing something so obvious.  But then I think, ‘Who cares?  This is going to be incredible!’  Today’s recipe came from one of those epiphanies.  I wanted something bursting with Spring flavors, and this pea shoot and mint pesto does just that.

Pea shoots should be showing up at your local farmers market right now.  If you haven’t tasted them before, please go buy some.   These tasty little shoots are the young tendrils and leaves of the pea plant.  They’re packed with nutrients, including vitamins A and C.  And they’re wonderful on sandwiches, salads, mixed into stir fry, pureed into soups– and of course, in this pesto.

Mint and peas make a great combination– remember this carbonara?  Pea shoots taste like fresh peas, but you don’t have to go through the fuss of shelling.  Here, I blanched the pea shoots for a few seconds to brighten their color.  I added a few mint leaves, and finished it off with a squeeze of fresh lemon.  Do not leave out the lemon!  It’s fine without, but we’re looking for better than ‘fine’ with this pesto.

A couple tips on the bruschetta:  First, make sure you grill the bread.  Season it with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  It makes a huge difference.  I also recommend tearing– rather than cleanly slicing– the mozzerella.  It creates nice crevices and curves to drizzle the olive oil into.  I think it also happens to  look much more interesting.  The radishes add an additional pop of color and fresh crunch.  Aside from using this pesto on bruschetta, you can add it to pasta.  If you think it’s going to be too thick to toss with pasta, add a little more olive oil and remember to always reserve a bit of hot pasta water to get the texture you want.  Either way, I think you’ll be happy with this fresh dish.  Enjoy!

The Recipe: Bruschetta with Pea Shoot Mint Pesto and Fresh Mozzarella

Pea Shoot Mint Pesto:

1 1/2 cups packed pea shoots

2-3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan or grana padano cheese

1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts, chopped

1 garlic cloves

10 fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

squeeze of lemon juice, to taste

sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

hot pepper flakes, to taste

For the Bruschetta:

1-2 balls of fresh mozzarella

1 -2 cloves of garlic

extra-virgin olive oil

pea shoot  mint pesto

handful of radishes, diced

Good quality rustic bread, sliced  ( I used sour dough)

To make the pesto:  Bring a medium sized saucepan filled with water to a small boil.  Prepare an ice bath, set aside.  Place the pea shoots in the hot water for 30 seconds.  Remove immediately and submerge into the ice bath.  Remove pea shoots from water and gently “wring” them out.  It’s ok if they have a bit of water on them.  Let cool.

Place the pea shoots, mint leaves, and 1 clove of garlic in a mini-food processor.  Pulse a few times, until the greens are adequately chopped.  Add the parmesan or grana padano and walnuts, pulse a few more times.  With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.  You may need to stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Once the pesto is thoroughly combined, taste it.  Stir in some salt, cracked pepper, hot pepper flakes, and a squeeze or two of lemon to brighten the pesto.  Use immediately or store in the refrigerator with plastic wrap placed directly on it.

To make the Bruschetta:  Fire up your grill.  Brush olive oil on both sides.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a hot grill and let it toast on each side until it is beautifully golden, but not burnt.  Remove from the grill and while still hot, rub a clove of garlic on one side of the toast.  Spread the pesto on that.  Rip the mozzarella, to create crevices, and place on the pesto.  Top with the chopped radishes.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and finish with a sprinkle of sea salt.  Enjoy!

I’m currently in North Dakota with my kids — made the long 8 hour trip to spend Mother’s Day with my Mom.  I hope all of you Moms out there have a wonderful day.  Thanks to everyone for stopping in — see you next week!


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Confession time:  I may have a bit of an addiction to cookbooks.  Obviously I cook a lot, so this probably doesn’t sound too out of the ordinary.  Here’s the thing though, even when I acquire a new one (which seems to be happening more and more lately) I’m not satisfied.  I plow through it looking for ideas and admiring the photos, yet almost immediately want another.  This is true, no matter how good the book.  Yup, its an addiction.

There has been chatter lately that with the advent of electronic reading devices, cookbooks may become a thing of the past.  I guess the idea is that the internet (including blogs) and paperless “cookbooks” will make those comforting recipe tomes obsolete.  I disagree.  It seems that as a country, we’re becoming more interested in real, wholesome food.  As people become more comfortable with cooking at home again, I think they’ll return to beautifully written and photographed hard-copy cookbooks.  Sure, being able to find a meal based on ingredients you have on hand by using your computer is nice, but stumbling across a recipe that expands your horizons is what it’s all about.

Anyway…2010 was a stellar year for cookbooks.  Take a look at a few lists here or here.  Today’s recipe comes from one of my favorite new books– Harvest To Heat by Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer.  It’s a collaboration of recipes from America’s best chefs, farmers, and artisans.  It is an absolute stunner.

This dish uses pea shoots, which are in-season, locally.  Hopefully, you can get your hands on some of these little gems.  If you can’t, don’t worry.  You can still make it by simply omitting the pea shoots at the end.  Pea shoots are the leaves and tendrils of pea plants.  They are delicate and taste just like peas, but with a bit of a crunch.   Mixing them with salad greens is another way to really enjoy them.  In this dish they are sauteed for just a few seconds and then placed on top of this fantastic risotto.

The risotto itself has a pea puree  swirled into it.  My first thought was to skip making the puree and just add whole peas.  I’m so glad I didn’t.  The puree is lovely and gives the risotto a beautiful soft-green hue.  This dish comes together quickly, so go ahead and put the extra effort in by making the puree.   The herbs add loads of character to what would otherwise be a straight-forward risotto.  The fennel, in particular, really stands out.   The additional acidity of the white wine, countered by the rich flavor of the bacon really brings it together.  It’s creamy, salty, smokey, and fresh– all at once.

The Recipe:  Risotto with Pea Shoots and Bacon

(Serves 6)

2 cups fresh peas (or frozen)

4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, 2 left whole and 2 chopped (2 tablespoons)

4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 small yellow or white onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice

2 cups dry white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire– though next time I’ll try a less aggresive style.  Perhaps a Pinot Bianco or Pinot Grigio.)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese

1/4 pound bacon or pancetta (about 6 slices), diced

2 cups pea shoots

1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Course salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.  Add the peas and cook for 1 minute.  Drain and cool.  Transfer to a food processor or blender and puree; strain through a mesh strainer and discard and solids.  Set aside.

Wrap the whole parsley sprigs, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, and fennel seeds tightly in cheesecloth and tie with butcher’s twine.

Heat the broth in a medium saucepan over medium heat to a simmer.  Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; add the bouquet of herbs, the onions, and the garlic.  Cook until the onions and garlic are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the rice and stir to coat evenly with the onion mixture.  Add the wine, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is almost completely absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium, then add the warm broth 1 cup at a time, stirring the rice constantly until most of the liquid is absorbed before adding additional broth.  Continue to add broth, stirring until the rice is almost cooked through, about 20 minutes.  ( Note: you may not need to use all of the broth.)

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon or pancetta until crisp, 5-8 minutes.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate, then transfer to a small plate and set aside.  Wipe out the skillet and heat 1 teaspoon butter over medium heat; add the pea shoots and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute.  Set aside.

When the rice is just cooked through, remove the bouquet of herbs,  then add the pea puree, chopped parsley, chives, and Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle the risotto into soup bowls.  Top each bowl with the crisp bacon or pancetta and pea shoots.  Enjoy!

Source:  Adapted from Harvest to Heat Cookbook

Thanks for stopping by!  I love your feedback, so feel free to leave a comment.  Have a fabulous weekend!


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