I Heart Pea Shoots

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Pea Shoots
Sure, I love chocolate truffles and Valentine's Day goodies, but February has another sweet treat: pea shoots. If you haven't tried these lovely greens before, you're in luck because they’re all over the farmer's market right now. And, at $1 or $2 a bag, you can feel the love.

Pea shoots are simply the leaves of the pea plant. But that description doesn't do them justice. The leaves are bright green and succulent, with accompanying tendrils that curl up like wavy Mohawks and have a subtle sugary flavor that is delicious both raw and cooked. Like peas, pea shoots have a sweet crispness that goes beautifully with just about anything. They have a pleasant sweet pea flavor that works well on its own, or as an accent with meats, pastas, or beans. Some things I like to do with pea shoots are:

• Use as greens in a salad
• Incorporate into omelets or frittatas
• Include in soups as you would spinach or chard
• Stuff inside chicken breasts or flank steak with lemon zest and garlic
• Mix with pastas

On Saturday, I was so excited pea shoots were in season, I bought two batches at the farmer's market. The first night, I made pasta with pea shoots and crumbled bacon, and then the next night we had a pea shoot salad with cured chorizo, Marcona almonds, couscous, and lentils. The saltiness of both the bacon and chorizo nicely accented the natural sweet flavor of the pea shoots, as did the Marcona almonds and Parmesan.

When cooking pea shoots, be sure not to oversteam them as they'll lose some of their flavor and texture if they're cooked too long. I like to toss them into a very hot pan with a little olive oil so they crisp up a bit before they cook down. If eating raw, make sure you thoroughly trim off the woody ends, and then dress as a salad green. Either way, you can’t go wrong.


Below are the recipes for the dishes I made this week with my pea shoots. Both are easy and relatively fast to make. If you're looking for further inspiration, I found a site called pea shoots.com, which has a number of eye-catching recipes that made my mouth water. I haven’t had time to cook any yet, but am especially looking forward to trying the pea shoot and smoked bacon soup (yes, I know, again with the bacon); although the pea shoot bubble and squeak also looks enticing.

So if you're looking for a unique Valentine's gift for your sweetheart, how about a bouquet of pea shoots?

pea shoot salad

Pea Shoot Salad with Chorizo, Almonds, Lentils, and Couscous

Makes: 2 large or 4 small salads

1 large bunch of pea shoots (washed with ends trimmed)
1/2 cup cooked lentils, white beans, or fava beans
1/3 cup roughly-chopped fennel
1/3 cup cured chorizo or soppresetta, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/3 cup Spanish Marcona almonds
1/3 cup cooked couscous
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Juice from one medium Meyer lemon or 1 1/2 Eureka lemons
Zest from one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop pea sprouts into 1-inch pieces, discarding large tough stems, and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a medium sauté pan and then add the chopped fennel.
3. After the fennel begins to soften, add the beans and parsley and then toss together, adding salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
4. Lay pea shoots onto plates and then evenly scatter beans, couscous, chorizo or soppresetta, and almonds onto each plate.
5. Drizzle dressing on top of each plate and serve.

Pea Shoot Pasta

Pea Shoot Pasta Sautéed with Bacon and Lemon Zest

Makes: 4 - 6 servings

1 bunch of pea shoots, cleaned, dried and cut into 3-inch long pieces
2 cloves garlic
1 lb cooked pasta
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 ladle of hot pasta water
2 -3 slices cooked bacon or 1/4 cup cooked cubed pancetta
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Clean and dry your pea shoots and remove any hard stems. Cut shoots into 3-inch pieces.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or wok until oil starts to sizzle.
3. Smash and then chop garlic into medium pieces and add to the olive oil.
4. Add pea shoots and lemon zest and sauté for about 3-5 minutes, or until pea shoots start to wilt.
5. Stir in cooked pasta and pasta water.
6. Crumble bacon and add to the pasta.
7. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil on top along with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.