the yogi and the cook

Truly Scrumptious

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An ode to summers of my youth…  A lazy summer afternoon, a country road, a family farm and indigo bursting bits of joy. Wherever there is berry picking a good memory can be found.

When I was a child it was customary for my family to visit the farms surrounding our New Jersey home to pick blueberries.  We would be out for hours and hours eating as many as we picked, a talent my sister and I learned from my dad, until our buckets were over flowing.  When finally content with our bellies and buckets, blue tongues and hands we would finally emerge from the fields.

I return to that town in New Jersey each year to visit my mother and it is no mere coincidence that I arrive just as the blueberries are bursting onto the scene.  The sweet aroma of nostalgia overwhelms me as I reach to collect my treasures.  As I weave through the narrow rows of bushes, my hands sticky with the sweet flesh and my basket full of blushing berries.  A childish innocence swells within as I reminisce the youthful days preparing homemade pies.

One of my favorite and lovingly worn cookbooks, The Are of Simple Cooking by Alice Waters, taught me how to make the perfect crust.  Alice graciously imparts her secret tips for a foolproof easy to prepare crust.  I use this recipe for everything:  pies, tarts, galattes, sweet, savory, large, small.  I believe that the phenomenal taste is due to using only unsalted organic butter.  And to  achieve the flakiest crust it is a must to use one part rendered lard.  A word about lard – I propose that we bring back lard, ‘the great misunderstood fat’.  In my generation growing up in the 70′s, lard, aka Crisco, was the shortening used in baking.  REAL LARD comes good rendered pork fat.  Your local butcher who carries local pastured pork should be able to help you there.

Before the berries of summer are gone,  here is the best recipe for old fashion rustic blueberry galatte.  Adapted from Alice Water’s, The Art of Simple Cooking.

Start with simple high quality ingredients. 2 cups stone milled organic pastry flour (I highly recommend Great River Milling brand)  buy it here.  plus extra flour for dusting berries and rolling out dough, 1/2 tsp. sea salt, 8 tablespoons cold unsalted organic butter and 4 tablespoon rendered lard, 1/2 cup ice-cold water, 2 cups blueberries, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp lemon juice and rind of half a lemon.

Instructions:

1. Whisk the flour and salt together.
2. Cut the butter into small cubes. Work the butter and lard  into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or fingertips, leaving some pieces fairly large.
3. Slowly drizzle or spray the water (using a nozzle bottle) into the dough until it just begins to come together.  Keep adding water if needed.  It is very important to not let the dough get too moist.  It should be a raggy ball.  Do not handle dough too much.
4. Divide the dough into 2 balls, shape into discs and wrap in plastic.  Refrigerate for an hour or longer
5. Pre-heat oven to 375°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat; set aside.
6. In a bowl, add blueberries, pinch of flour, cinnamon, 1 tbsp lemon and rind of half a lemon.  Stir and set aside. Baker’s note:  I never use refined sweeteners, after all fruit is nature’s candy.  Having said that, it may not be taste sweet enough for some palates.
7. On a well floured surface, roll each out into a circle, about 1/8-inch thick.
8. Add berry mixture into the center of dough, leaving about a 2 1/2-inch border all the way around.  Fold dough around the fruit, pressing gently to adhere the folds.   Brush edges of dough with egg.  Transfer to freezer for 10 minutes.
9. Bake until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Scrumptious!

A last word about the benefits of these indigo gems:  Fresh berries are an excellent source of vitamin-C,  powerful natural antioxidant, which helps develop resistance against infectious agents, counter inflammation, and scavenge harmful free radicals from the human body.  Further, blackberries contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium.

Spring’s Sweet Palette

MFK Fisher notes that anything can be a lodestar in a person’s life, and for some, the kitchen serves well.  Often the real influence of the lodestar is half understood or partly unsuspected and it slowly becomes clear what is due to its shaping.  For me and Miss Fisher, it is the kitchen.

It is been too long a time since my last post.  Days turn to weeks, weeks to months, the winter becomes spring.  Before the bright colors of summer emerge, the young greens burst onto the scene.  Lush, green spring has its own brand of alliums- members of the onion and garlic family- enlisting fresh, herbal flavors, sweetness, and succulence in place of shelf-stable bulbs.  A short season at that, here is a wonderful, uncomplicated recipe adapted from moms own.  Forming the base of savory dishes all year long, in the spring they really become the stars.  More delicate and less pungent as opposed to the more mature ones, they turn tender and sweet when cooked.  Look for these alliums at your farmers’ market, all with different flavors,  characteristics, textures and uses.  Green onions, the immature shoots of the bulb,  green garlic- harvested just before the garlic begins to form cloves and ramps, these prized relatives of the leek, also known as wild leeks, with their strong, oniony flavor.  Green garlic is my favorite and I look forward to it all year long.  Although green garlic (or spring garlic, as it is sometimes called) sounds exotic, the truth is that it’s just the young version of the garlic that we all know and love.  In this recipe I choose to  substitute the mature garlic for the young plant where I can use the the bulb, stalk, leaves and scapes.  A braising method that doesn’t require hours of cooking.

1204-bulbs

Mom’s Garlicky Chicken Thighs with Morel Mushrooms and Parsley

Ingredients

2 lbs. (bone in skin on) organic chicken thighs, pastured if available

2 bunches green garlic (about 1 lb)

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 tbsp rendered lard (or coconut oil)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Half bunch organic parsley  finely chopped

5 (handful) morel mushrooms  sliced

1/2 cup bone broth

Splash or more ! of dry white wine

Cut dark-green tops from green garlic and slice crosswise ½” thick; slice bulbs and pale-green stalks crosswise ¼” thick.  Heat 2 Tbsp. oil (and lard or coconut oil )in a large braising pan over medium heat.  Add garlic bulbs and stalks and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, 8–10 minutes.  Remove garlic from pan, place to the side,  brown the chicken thighs in the same skillet, skin down, low heat, adding remaining oil.  Only turn chicken once when skin easily comes away from the pan.  With both sides browned add broth, garlic tops, parsley,  and sliced mushrooms, broth and wine.  Cover with lid and simmer for 20 -30 minutes, let sit and serve.

The Winter Abundance Stew

I spent an intimate evening with a group of friends this New Year’s Eve.  A welcome departure from the ubiquitous ball drop celebration in New York City’s Times Square.  The mood set by elegant dress, music, a cozy fire in the fireplace, laughter, food and many bottles of wine.  I think one of the most communal experiences for a gathering is having everyone ladling from a single main pot.  No matter the size of the group, event, or time of year you can be sure that on my table will sit a big pot.

I choose to make a Moroccan Tagine.  This dish is from North Africa and is named after the type of earthenware pot in which it is cooked.  I love to cook Moroccan meals for their welcoming warmth, intoxicating aromas and because they’re supremely satisfying.  Slow cooking in the short days and dark nights of winter definitely call for cozy warm foods.  It is crazy good -what makes it unique is the sweet, yet a little spicy flavors.  Harrisa, a Tunisian hot chili sauce, is complemented with sweet from dried fruit while lemon zest and cilantro offer those nuances that brighten and boost the flavor profile.

Spices are the defining point to any authentic Moroccan meal and are also known to be used for their medicinal value.  If you have ever wondered what makes Moroccan food taste so delightful, rest assured that it is a set group of specific spices. I will never forget my travels through Morocco where I visited the ancient city of Tangier.  Undeniably imprinted in my mind is the stall after stall of the most brilliantly colored bins of spices.

The most important spices are cayenne, turmeric, cumin,allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves,  ginger, nutmeg and star anise and their medicinal properties can not be overlooked.  Turmeric is an antioxidant that provides liver support, acts as an anti-inflammatory, and is touted to have anti-cancer properties.  Cinnamon helps to eliminate cholesterol and lowers blood sugar.  Ginger is an anti-inflammatory that aids in the digestion of protein, increases circulation, and is said to increase the effectiveness of all other herbs, foods, and medicines.  Clove is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic.  Cayenne has amazing effects on the respiratory system as well as to the intestinal tract.

Don’t let the lack of fresh produce in winter dampen your love of flavorful food. What the winter pantry lacks in ripe produce, it makes up for in rich spices.  Now is the perfect time to allow the sweet scents and warming flavors  to elevate standby foods.  If you don’t own a tagine, don’t fret.  You can use a Dutch oven, as I do, or any other heavy cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid.

You can use almost any kind of vegetables in this stew, it’s perfect for emptying the fridge.  I adapted this vegetarian version with chickpeas for protein, as it works nicely with chicken or lamb.

Moroccan Vegetable Tagine                                                                                             Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil  
1 large onion, roughly chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced
 1 inch fresh ginger, minced (or 1 tsp grounded)
 1-2 tbsp grounded cinnamon  
1 tsp cumin
 salt 
2-3 tsp harissa paste (or dried harissa) 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes 
1 lemon, juice and zest
 a handful fresh cilantro 
1 small winter squash, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces 
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces 
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
 1 eggplant, cut into 2-inch pieces 
 5 dried apricots,  5 prunes 
1/2 cup chickpeas/garbanzo beans, pre- boiled 
a handful raisins

Heat olive oil in a large clay pot and sauté the onion for a few minutes until it softens.  Add garlic, ginger and the spices and stir around before adding harissa, tomatoes, lemon juice and fresh cilantro.  Bring the tomato sauce to a boil and then lower the heat.  Add squash, carrots, sweet potato, eggplant and apricots. Stir around, make sure that all vegetables are somewhat covered in tomato sauce. Put the lid on and simmer for about an hour. Stir carefully once or twice, otherwise leave the lid on.When the vegetables feel tender, add chickpeas and raisins and let everything simmer for 5 minutes before removing it from the oven.

Serve with: white quinoa, roasted almonds, fresh cilantro and fresh mint

Essential Thanksgiving

Help to brighten the monotonous brown of turkey, gravy and stuffing by adding the warm glow of  orange to your menu.  This is a rather unconventional yet uncomplicated recipe.  Sweet potatoes and squash take us back to a time when Thanksgiving was a seasonal celebration of the harvest.  My essential recipe, a gorgeous combination of roasted squash, greens, dried fruit, a shower of fresh herbs and farro, a wonderful nutty grain.  Yes, it may seem daring for Thanksgiving, but it works together brilliantly.

Warm Farro Salad
2/3 cup farro  
1/2 pound (celery (a small head), cut in thin slices on a slight bias  
seeds of 1/2 large pomegranate  
3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped  
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
1 scant tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped,  2 Delicata squash
  1 bunch kale
  1⁄4 cup currants
  1⁄4 cup dried cranberries
 
(Other variations: gogi berries, dried apricots, pine nuts, and hazelnuts)
Pomegranate Dressing:  
juice of 1/2 large pomegranate
  1/2 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together, season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.  Put the farro in a bowl, add ( boiling hot) water to just below the surface of the farro and leave on lowest hear for 15 – 20 minutes) until just tender but still quite al dente.  Put all the ingredients in a bowl, pour over the dressing and check the seasoning.  Make sure the walnuts are dressed just before serving, as sometimes they can impart a bitter flavor and unpleasant colour to the dressing if left to sit.

The New Star in the Kitchens

Nettles are taking center stage from our long standing leafy green friend- kale, as the superfood of the moment.  This pesky, painful and edible weed has become a superstar in the culinary world after centuries of english and european folklore has touted its many uses.  So nutritious, if not a little dangerous, these greens are showing up in gourmet shops and farmers’ markets across the country.
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Any vegetable that can provide a great nutritional bang for the effort to cook it is always appealing to me.  Plus, nettles grow wild, and so all you have to do is go and pick them (after pulling on protective clothing first, of course).  The young plants are showing up right now in parts of northern California and I suspect parts of the East coast too.

Nettles like rich, loamy soil, so they can often be found on forest floors near a water source like a running stream or pond, in partial shade.  They can also commonly be found around the edges of pastures and farm fields.  I found abundant patches of both young and more mature nettle plants growing wild at Miramar Farm in Half Moon Bay.   Jayne and Mark Battey call this wonderful piece of paradise, acres of farmland set only a few hundred yards from the pacific ocean, home.   I do love coastal California and its ever changing terrain- hills, forrest, ocean and rocky cliffs.  With basket, gloves,  foraging gear in hand, I set on my way.

When foraging, only pick the nettle tops (the top three branches) and make sure the nettles plants are not more than knee-high. The smaller younger leafs are tastiest, although the more mature leafs can be uses for tea.   Discard the stems.  Although being stung by a nettle or eating an uncooked nettle is not dangerous or poisonous, you will probably wish you hadn’t.  Be sure to harvest from an area away from the road and not contaminated in any way.

It may be a brash statement to say that one prickly green herb is the panacea for almost everything that ails you;  but, in the case of stinging nettles, it’s mostly true. It is one of the best edible and nutritive herbs in nature.  Simply stated an awesome weed-  abundant, easy to identify and it can be prepared almost any way you choose.

I always had an inkling that despite their sting, nettles are a bit of nature’s bounty, their prickly leaves couching a hidden secret:  Not only are they good-tasting, but they are good for you.

Nettles are high in iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium and vitamins A,D,K and C,  great source of chlorophyll (and are also a decent source of protein) and have anti-inflammatory properties.  The word “nettle” describes the flowering plant species from the Urtica genus, which comes from the Latin word “uro,” meaning, “I burn.”  It’s a natural cleanse that removes metabolic wastes and is both gentle and stimulating on the lymph system, promoting easy excretion through the kidneys.

Don’t worry, the sting is neutralized upon blending, blanching, sauteeing, or steaming

I am making  it an afternoon affair.  Once my greens are picked, it’s time to head into the kitchen, where I set to the task of making batch after batch of pesto, some with no nuts, some with no cheese  and just generally playing around with different ingredients.  Before you know it, there is jar after jar of beautiful green goodness.  After some tweaking, I have come up with this version that is always a hit. Fresh and bright, with a subtle undertone of spring— slightly floral, slightly woodsy and slightly (but only just) reminiscent of spinach.  While the pesto does rely on nuts, cheese, and oil for flavor, what I find remarkable is that I don’t miss the basil one bit.

I picked soo many nettles that I have reserved some leaves to make a delightfully easy green soup and I will steep the dark mature leaves for tea.  The tea can be drunk or also used as hair rinse!

Image Nettle Pesto
8 cups of nettles
1 cup Parmesan or pecorino romano (these are very different flavors but both produce excellent results)
1 cup almonds (any nut will do, really)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Juice of half a lemon
½ teaspoon real salt
1 cup loosely packed sun dried tomatoes
a few turns of the pepper mill
½ cup olive oil

Add nettles, cheese, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, nuts to a food processor.  The raw clean nettle leaves loose their sting once blended so not to worry. I like to slowly drizzle the oil last and add more until the desired consistency is achieved.  Lemon and salt ” brighten” foods and recipes, therefore I always add them last.   Add slowly and taste.

Buy it here now

Green Goodness Soup                                

1 oz  butter
1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic
1 lb yukon gold potatoes peeled and chopped
2 cups packed fresh nettles (the young leafs are the most tender and tastiest)
5 cups stock   (I use my homemade bone broth)
1/2 cup heavy cream

tsp nutmeg
s/p to taste

Buy my bone broth now

Melt the butter and cook the onions and garlic for 10 minutes.   Add the potatoes and nettles and cook for 2 minutes on medium high heat.  Add the stock, cover and bring to a boil. Turn back to a simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Puree the ingredients and stir in the cream and little nutmeg. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Spring Sorrel

Sorrel — from the Old High German sur, or “sour” — Culinarily, sorrel is quite versatile.  Because the plant is perennial, you can count on sorrel for early spring recipes — where it shines alongside eggs, greens and milder herbs.

I made this pesto because I bought sorrel at the  farmers market, and decided that it would complement spinach wonderfully – I love how spinach makes a pesto a bit earthy, and coupled with the lemon flavors of the sorrel, and some additional lemon juice, is this perfect balance of earthy yet bright. This pesto is hugely versatile,  I have been serving it as a dip with thinly sliced watermelon radish or jicima slices.

Yesterday  for dinner I decided to  make a risotto using semi pearled farro.  After all the water and broth absorbed I swirled in a few big heaping spoonfuls of pesto.  I finished the dish with a piling of homemade shoestring sweet potatoes fries on top.( enjoying the last of the well loved root vegetables)

Sorrel Spinach Pesto

Makes about one cup
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas, be sure to buy shelled ones, which are dark green)  2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice (I used the juice of one lemon) 3 cups spinach  1 cup sorrel  
1/2 to 1 tablespoon of miso paste  1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional) 
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor or blender, chop the pumpkin seeds and garlic until fine, add rest of ingredients other than extra-virgin olive oil.  Turn food processor back on and drizzle olive oil slowly into the chopped up ingredients.

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A lovely bone broth

Make a lovely bone broth..
with good roasted bones and lots of veggie bits.

While it simmers all daylong;  write, sweep, get on yoga mat, and preserve some Meyer lemons.  Yes indeed  because my wonderful yoga students flooded me with these beauties and I don’t want them to go to waste.

Why not I sip on the broth while it cooks – just strain as you go.

Keep it on the fire for hours as it only gets better.  Bone broths are typically simmered for a very long period of time (often in excess of 24 hours). This long cooking time helps to remove as many minerals and nutrients as possible from the bones.  At the end of cooking, so many minerals have leached from the bones and into the broth that the bones crumble when pressed lightly between your thumb and forefinger.

Today I am doing my all liquid day, a little rest for the digestive system.  It is late afternoon and I feel a bit light-headed, so I find myself peeking in the frig for what to do,  should I eat?  (okay so I pinched some sunflower seeds).

And there they were;  those sweet little broccoli stalks that i just bought yesterday from the farmer at the mission community market looking at me.

Ah ha.. I love broccoli soup.  I love green soup.

I make a great kale, broccoli, cauliflower soup (it turns green when blended).  I wasn’t even nearly up to the task of cooking a big ole’ traditional soup.

With that, I took one stalk of  broccoli, cut it up into big chunks, leaves, stalk floret and all.  Placed in a pot of  water and brought   to a rapid boil, cooking for 5 minutes or more (well cooked). Drain and into the blender it went.  I added a nice cup or more of my broth that is still simmering on the stove, 1/2 an avocado, pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste), squeeze of lemon, half clove of garlic and two good glugs of extra virgin olive oil.

Ready?
Blend! Pour!  Eat!
This makes a generous bowl for one.

In 10 minutes you have a nice quick cup of all the  green goodness one needs!

Why bone broths are good for you.

Bone broths are extraordinarily rich in nutrients – particularly minerals and amino acids. Bone broths are a good source of amino acids – particularly arginine, glycine and proline. Glycine supports the bodies detoxification process and is used in the synthesis of hemoglobin, bile salts and other naturally-occurring chemicals within the body. Glycine also supports digestion and the secretion of gastric acids. Proline, especially when paired with vitamin C, supports good skin health. Bone broths are also rich in gelatin which improves collagen status, thus supporting skin health. Gelatin also support digestive health

Ingredients

4-6 meat bones(roast in oven first to bring out flavor), 2 sweet bay leaves 1 tbsp black peppercorns any vegetable scraps you have on hand( carrots, potato skins, onion skins, celery leaves, parsley stalks) garlic cloves and skins, two egg shells rinsed, knob of ginger, juniper berries, kombu, (seaweed option) tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a large stock heavy bottom pot.  Cover with filtered water, bring to a boil and skim of any foam that rises to the top, lower heat and  simmer 12 hours.  Slow cooker works well for busy lives.  As you need broth or stock, simply dip a ladle or measuring cup into the slow cooker to remove the amount of stock you need. Pour it through a fine-mesh sieve or, preferably, a reusable coffee filter which will help to clarify the broth. Replace the broth you remove from the slow cooker with an equivalent amount of filtered water.  At the end of the 24 hours, strain off any remaining broth and discard or compost the bones. The bones  should crumble when pressed between your thumb and forefinger. Their softness is an indication that much of the nourishment from the bones – minerals, amino acids – have leached from the bones and into the broth you’ve enjoyed all week long.

The Kitchen – the thread that ties us together

Kitchen – this word conjures up many things to many people; from sheer pleasure to a dull duty.  Kitchen – the place where traditions are born and continue, where memories of chicken soup and apple pie bring us home. Stories connecting us to many aspects of life.

It was on a warm Sunday afternoon that a lively crowd of curious individuals joined me for my kitchen talk a tasting of simply prepared good food.  I entered my with my arms overflowing with zucchini of all shapes and sizes, broccoli, heirloom tomatoes, mixed greens and sprouts.  The crowd looked on with anticipation, eyes wide as all conversations came to a halt.  The menu  consisted of roasted red pepper tomato soup with a yellow pepper coulis, sprouted  raw broccoli zucchini salad and  quinoa cakes.  This gathering had much meaning.

Breaking of bread, eating together to me is about community, pleasure, tradition and mostly about carving out a new social and economic paradigm removed from the influence of large corporations and the diet dictorates.  Could it be that the act of gathering in the kitchen might be all that is necessary to have an impact on change?  There is a food movement happening – a shift  the real food revolution happening right here in our kitchens.

ODE TO A LEAF

Art found itself framed within an old wooden apple box, delicate little leaves, placed in such a way, as a painter might place his brush.  Not often am I mesmerized by something so ordinary.  I found this to be most extraordinary.

As I meditated with this still life, I asked myself  “Have we all but  forgotten what it is to taste a tender leaf ?”

Tatsoi, Mizuna, Red Oak, Red Giant Mustard, Baby Kale, a bit of spice, a floral note, pleasant to the palate -each leaf has a distinct taste.  Thank you to Jamie and Chris of  Peace Meal Farm in Orno, Maine for providing me with this tasteful harvest.  Mizuna has a mild yet tangy flavor, a elegant, deep green with  saw-toothed leave. . Tatsoi is a dark green with a spoon like shape and a pleasant and sweet aroma.  When it is mixed with other greens it enhances the flavor and nutritional value. Red and green oak obviously named for its oak leaf-shaped leaves, this attractive autumn-colored lettuce offers tender and very tasty leaves. Red giant mustard is a deep reddish purple, savoy leaf, accented by pale green veins, margins, and undersides.  Peppery, hot, tangy-they really spice up a plate.

A perfect example of too much too fast; bagged and boxed; known now as mesculn greens, spring mix, baby romaine  all picked well before their prime. Mono cropped, trucked from warehouse to store, refrigerated, wrapped in plastic, need I say more. …all now have become rather tasteless.

Stay close to nature for it will always provide a gift, a prize and a reminder of what is important.

A SURE SIGN OF SPRING

Spring feels to me like the season that truly brings in a new year!  The increased light and longer evenings seem to do wonders for the mood.   As spring creeps up on us, the world of produce quietly begins to burst at the seams.  I love all things spring:  spring peas, new onions, artichokes, fava beans, and the illustrious green garlic. The farmers markets full to the brim of native produce, brilliant hues of bright green, red, yellow and orange all welcome change after the long season of roots and hearty greens.

My beloved spring peas are one of spring’s first offerings.  I find the best way to eat spring peas are right off the vine as they present a sweetness that is no match to a cooked version.  Consider a second planting in your garden if you haven’t already had a chance to experience one of natures finest delicacies.  Not too long ago, on this particular morning, when I was browsing my local  farmer’s market in San Francisco,  I spotted this vaguely familiar vine neatly tied in a bunch.  I asked the farmer what they were, “pea tendrils,” she replied.  Until this weekend, I had never tried a pea tendril and I would venture to guess that I am not alone.  So what exactly are pea tendrils?  Pea tendrils, are the early stems of the pea plant.  Who knew that all the parts of the plant were edible?  I am happy to report that after my first taste, I am a  HUGE fan. From now on, think of the leaves and stems are part of the vegetable and not as an obstacle.

As most green leafy vegetables go, pea shoots – the young tendrils and leaves of the garden pea plant – are incredibly nutrient-dense.  A nutritious leaf with high levels of vitamin C, vitamin A and significant amounts of folic acid.  They are also chock-full of phytonutrients and antioxidants.

Pea tendrils are slightly sweet, with a mild bitter aftertaste, and they have a nutty undertone.  The leaves have a texture similar to spinach, although not as delicate, this wonderfully young, green quality is refreshing on the palate.  Pea shoots and fava greens are gaining attention on the culinary scene as confirmed by the many sightings on menus of some of my favorite restaurants in town.

I think pea tendrils have an almost magical quality about them; they only appear for a few weeks during the year and it seems the allure of their twirling vines and soft white blooms are capable of ensnaring even the most discerning locavore.   Also known as, pea leaves, they can be a transformational ingredient, one that can remain in the background while making the elements around it better.  This evening I chose to use them in concert with local asparagus, fava beans and a delightful green garlic vinaigrette.  I have included both recipes for you below.  I had a similar salad atop grilled whole red trout or for brunch include a poached egg, drizzling the vinaigrette over the egg with le sel gros gris.

ASPARAGUS, FAVA BEAN & PEA SHOOT SALAD with green garlic vinaigrette

I have chosen not to list specific quantities, rather I encourage you to find your own balance of these three favorites depending on your specific tastes.  One bunch of asparagus either whole or cut into smaller pieces with a sprinkle of favas and nice heaping of pea shoots works well for me.  Bring a small pot of water to a boil.  Remove the outer shell of the fava beans.  Blanch the favas and the asparagus for no more than two minutes (Fava’s will float to the top when ready).  Place them in an ice bath.  When cool, remove the inner shell of the favas by either popping the bean out with your fingers or using a paring knife.  Set aside.
Toss all ingredients with the dressing. Divide salad among four plates.

Green Garlic Vinaigrette                                                                                                                                                                                                   2 oz chopped raw green garlic (white part) 
1 oz chopped green garlic (greener part)
 3 lemons  juiced 
1T Dijon mustard
, ¼ C white balsamic vinegar
, 1.5 cup olive oil
Sauté the white part of the garlic in 2 T olive oil.  Combine all ingredients except oil in a bowl.
  Pour in the olive oil and stir with a whisk to combine well. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Bon Appetite!

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