fat free opinions on a food centric life

Pea Shoot Salad with Bacon & Lime

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen recipes for salads that call for pea shoots and I’ve just just flipped the page knowing I wouldn’t be able to find them without going out of my way.  Can you EVEN imagine life without pea shoots?  I mean, come ON!

Talk about spoiled.

If I have to go out of a five-mile radius of my home, fuhgeddaboutit. So when I get through the checkout and the clerk mechanically inquires about whether I was able to find everything I needed, I usually say yes, knowing that I’m the odd ball who buys all the strange produce, and they don’t really want to know why I can’t find fresh morels.

But when I saw the Crunchy Asian Salad with Honeyed Bacon in the March ’08 issue of Food & Wine, I decided I was on a mission.  I had to find some pea shoots.  That meant heading for Whole Foods first, since they’re the grocery store that usually has the specialty produce I need (usually…).

I headed straight for the produce section, and lo and behold, with little effort hunting, there they sat in little rectangular boxes:  the elusive pea shoots. They looked like radish sprouts with really long stems.  I glanced around for the price and never did find a tag so really don’t want to know what I spent for them.  I picked up a couple of packages and wheeled away, giddy that I’d be able to experiment with something that looks like the weeds I get in my garden after a good rain and a few days of grey skies.  Who knew I’d not need two whole boxes of those cute little greens that taste exactly like snow peas.  Nice.  Fresh.  Something my menfolk would call “feed.”

I knew the salad required Chinese five-spice powder as well, and I guess finding pea sprouts used up my good fortune, because Whole Foods had none.  It figures.  I decided it was only a minor setback and thought I’d find a recipe on line that would allow me to make my own.

Chinese five-spice is a combination of  five spices:  szechuan peppercorns, star anise, cloves, cinnamon and fennel.  And if you’re someone who has a pantry like me  (I can talk about this at length later…) then making your own Chinese five-spice powder is something quite feasible.  Whether you can actually find what you need when you need it is another story entirely.  Except I didn’t have star anise which meant I had to improvise.

Regardless, this is my official entry to “Waiter, there’s something in my…” hosted by Andrew at Spittoon Extra

Pea Shoot Salad with Bacon & Lime

2 slices bacon
1 T. honey
1 T. real maple syrup
1 T soy sauce
1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
3 T olive oil
2 T fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. finely grated lime zest
1 T Asian fish sauce
1 tsp. red chili paste
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 lb. snow peas
2 c. pea shoots
2 T torn basil leaves
2 c. spicy salad mix (purchased variety of spicy greens)
3 radishes, thinnly sliced

For the bacon:  Mix in a small bowl, the honey, maple syrup and soy sauce.  Brush onto bacon slices and place under the broiler in a pan that will allow the fat to drip away from the bacon.  Keep an eye on it, as it will burn easily.  Broil until crisp, then place on folded paper towels to cool.

For the salad:  On a serving platter, place the spicy greens.  Tear the basil and sprinkle it over the spicy greens.  Layer the pea shoots on top.  Slice the snow peas into pieces and sprinkle above the pea shoots.  Slice the radishes and quarter the slices.  Sprinkle those over the snow peas.  Slice the bacon into thin diagonal pieces and spread those on top.

For the dressing:  Mix the olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, fish sauce and chili paste until well combined.  Drizzle over salad and serve more on the side if desired.

Notes:  Oh. My.  This is a really spectacular salad.  Even if you excluded the bacon, the dressing is very good, and the crispiness of the veggies, the spiciness….Mmmm…I loved it!  So did the menfolk, and I’m reminding you that one of them is not quite 16. I’m wondering about sauteed shrimp with this already.  For the Chinese five-spice powder, I left out the anise.  What’s my rationale?  Fennel is very close in flavor (to me…) so I added a bit more fennel.  Oh.  And some cardamom. In other words, experiment.  Or make sure you have Chinese five-spice powder in your pantry.

And just in case you don’t think adding bacon to this salad is enough, we had it with flat-iron steaks seared just right with some some Ichimi Togarashi. (Yes, it was in my pantry.)