Tag Archives: peas

Lasagne with Béchamel and Spring Vegetables

I’ve been trying to write something here for days now.  I approach the task with the best intentions but know that it’s really only my conscience goading me.  No words come.  I scrounge for a memory worth sharing, then wonder if it’s one I’ve already written about and catch myself wanting to waste time sorting through archived posts to make sure.  It’s an old procrastination ruse, so I’m onto it most of the time.

Photos of recipes I’ve tried and liked are accumulating, waiting for something to be said about them, or the ingredients they were made with,  whether they’re in season, local, organic….or not.  Because you know, that matters, right?

I can’t muster up the energy because it all sounds so trivial.

I’m like an ostrich avoiding reality.  I’d rather edit photos (which qualifies at least as legitimate procrastination), or sprawl on my bedroom floor in front of the big windows on this blustery day watching the storm come in off the Pacific — probably the last we’ll have until next winter.  Mother Nature seems to have gotten March all wrong this year, with its entrance more like that of a lamb’s and its exit resembling a lion’s — at least in San Diego.

I could grab a book and lose myself for a while or think again for what seems to be the millionth time about whether the windows need drapes, and whether I should make them myself — except I’m not sure which closet that sewing machine is in and even if I did, my heart wouldn’t be into it.

A walk in the rain would also be nice, but the force of the wind is rattling the skylights and whistling down the chimneys.  I’d make it out the door and realize how silly a decision it was since I’m nothing like the thin woman clad in white who just sprinted past my window, nor like anyone the Brontës might write about, a thin figure whose dark dress is flapping about her ankles on the hauntingly beautiful Yorkshire moors and proof of a pained existence etched across her brow.

So ridiculously unfocused and thinking none of it really matters.

I’ve been thinking about perspective quite a bit this past week.  Counting my blessings.  Thinking about life, loss, what I take for granted (see foolish exhibits A, B, C, and D above) and what others in the world right now have lost and may never, ever recover.  I’m watching it on the news, in the photos that stream through a variety of websites, and can’t begin to understand.  How can anyone not actually experiencing the magnitude of such devastation understand?  I’m weighing the pettiness of any complaint, feeling short with others for their narrow mindedness, and all in all just very sad and angry.

It’s overwhelming.

So on this first day of spring and all it traditionally represents with respect to birth, new growth, and renewal, I hope the best for people in so many places on Earth right now devastated by things beyond their control.

If you’re someone who has thought about donating to a relief fund for Japan’s recovery, you may be interested in this piece by Stephanie Strom from the New York Times, “Charities Rush to Help Japan, With Little Direction.”

Donations can be made directly to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

More information about other ways to help are listed in “The Lede” at The New York Times“Japan Earthquake and Tsunami:  How to Help”

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Spring Salad with Dandelion Greens, Asparagus and Fresh Peas

If there was ever a salad season, Spring would be it. Baby veggies and greens are everywhere and the simple act of opening a food magazine has me craving salad more than I normally do. I’ve never lived above the 36th parallel north in my life, so I could argue that it’s salad season all year long, but I’ve concluded others may not necessarily feel that way.

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Spicy Pea Salad with Chipotle Glazed Pork

I have been trying half-heartedly to organize my cooking, but I think it’s hopeless.  If it wasn’t for my memory, which is better than good, I’d be screwed.  Of course, maybe I am screwed and I just haven’t figured it out yet.  That would be why my fridge is packed with science experiments.  Why my freezer(s) have food in them I don’t recognize. 

You probably know the routine:  It’s the weekend.  You have some time to sit and relax and wonder about what might be on the "Chez You" dinner for the upcoming week.  You have all those cookbooks, some food magazines, eight trillion bookmarks from foodblogs at your beck and call — what could be more perfect?  So you settle in with your recipes, some stickies, and a pen.  Oh, and a beverage.  You see this, and that, and drool over all the possibilities.  But do you actually make a decision about what will be cooked past Monday?  Is there a grocery list?  Um.  Nope.  Let’s just call it best laid plans and move along.

Regardless, I have been better about using food I have, and cutting down on left overs.  Or when I have left overs, actually do something with them.  You know, something the guys can’t live without.  Something that causes them to wander to the kitchen, mindless, and wanting to sit down to eat.

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Okay, so maybe not.  But I can say this meal comes close.  And (hang on to your shorts now..) not only does it feature leftovers, but it revisits a recipe I made not too long ago: Pea Shoot Salad with Bacon & Lime.  Will wonders never cease?  I didn’t think so.  It’s those pea shoots.  I love them.  I don’t know if it’s because they’re new and different to me, or that they have a perfect crunch when I bite into a fork full.  Maybe it’s the contrast of textures between the shoots and the tangy bite of the dressing.   

Trying to recover from an excess of Cheesecake Pops?

Dig into this.

Spicy Pea Salad with Chipotle Glazed Pork for Three

3 T extra virgin olive oil

2 T fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp grated lime zest

1 T Asian fish sauce

1 T chili oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 lb. snow peas

1/4 snap peas, cut into diagonal pieces

3 c. pea shoots

1 spring onion, bulb sliced thin

3-4 lg. basil leaves, torn (about 1/4 c.)

2 T torn mint leaves

3 left-over pieces chipotle glazed pork from this recipe

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Make the dressing:
  In a small jar with a lid, combine olive oil, lime juice, zest, fish sauce, and chili oil.  Put the lid on, and shake vigorously.  Season with salt and pepper, shake some more, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine vegetables with your hands.  The pea shoots are a bit unwieldy, so this seems to work best.  Give the dressing another shake and then drizzle on a bit, just to moisten the greens. 

Pop the pork into the microwave and heat on half power for about 1-1/2 minutes.  With microwaves, I always prefer lower "heat" for more time, and the amount of time cooked will be dependent upon your microwave.  Alternately, you could spray a skillet with Pam, and over medium high heat, quickly fry the pork.  The goal would be not to dry it out since it’s already been cooked once, so I prefer to use the microwave.

Slice a piece of pork for each plate, then arrange some of the pea salad alongside.  Drizzle dressing over and serve.

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Notes:  This pea salad is inspired by Chef Ratha Chau’s Crunchy Asian Pea Salad with Honeyed Bacon which is extremely good.  The recipe is easily adaptable — both dressing, and salad.  Protein or no protein, I love the combination of flavors in this.  When you make the dressing as written above, consider also adding some ingredients in the original recipe intended for the bacon:  2 T honey, 1 T soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder.  It sweetens it, and adds a nice contrast to the pea shoots.

Fish Sauce:  If you turned your nose up when you saw fish sauce in the ingredients list, I get it.  It just doesn’t sound appetizing.  But it’s no different than the idea of adding anchovies to salad dressing, or for that matter Worcestershire sauce.  Does anyone really know what’s in that stuff?  Do we want to know?  What I do know is that it adds flavor to my recipes. Regardless, there are lots of varieties of fish sauce — including a Basque variety.  I haven’t tried that with this recipe, and since I’m not a fish sauce expert, I can’t say whether that would work for this recipe.  Fish sauce is a thin, salty, rich flavored mixture that actually isn’t very sauce-like at all.  It is often used as a dipping sauce as well as an ingredient in Asian cuisine.

If you can’t find pea shoots (and it wasn’t easy for me the first time…) then a salad with greens you enjoy, with sprouts that have a bit of a bite would be nice.  Radishes are good, too.  I may have snuck some spicy Asian salad greens into this, but I honestly can’t remember.  The point would be to create the combination you’ll enjoy.  Experiment and have fun.

For the protein, if you choose to add that, and you don’t want to marinate the pork, then chicken, shrimp, or pork right from the fridge briefly marinated in 2 T honey, 1 T soy sauce, and 1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder, then grilled or broiled would work just fine.  In fact, that would be what the original recipe suggests, except for with bacon.  And if you’re in the mood, or can afford the calories, it’s really tasty.

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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.)