It was so wonderful to be back at the farm yesterday! I was delighted to see some new items such as rhubarb and broccoli rabe. A note on the broccoli rabe–the main stems are quite tough. Farmer Joe recommends pulling off the leaves and smaller stems to cook with. I took his advice and blanched the leaves, flowers and secondary stems and found the results tender and quite tasty.
Darling pea shoots. They are almost too cute to eat, but yet when you take a bite you are so glad you did. You are hit with bright, fresh pea flavor in a not quite totally tender bite. They add a great flavor and textural element to garden or grain salads, sandwiches/wraps, sushi or summer rolls, tacos, or as a garnish for soup. But raw is not the only way to highlight these little gems. The Japanese have a long tradition of stir frying these cuties with sesame oil and garlic. They can also be cooked into frittatas or casseroles, tossed with pasta, or even made into soup.
Pea shoots are relatively new to the US and are gaining in popularity. Great Britain appears to have fallen in love with them. There is even a British website completely devoted to pea shoots (click here) that features them in everything from salads to cocktails (Peatini anyone?). One of my favorite finds in ideas for preparing pea shoots was a recipe for pea shoot oil (click here). Imagine beautiful pea oil drizzled on freshly picked lettuce or on grilled leeks or scallions! Yum!
Note that the shoots we are getting from the farm are technically pea tops or tendrils of a pea plant grown in soil. The shoots that are sold in grocery stores are typically pea sprouts and are grown in water. The difference is that pea sprouts will be a bit more tender, whereas tendrils can be tough (depending partly on how old the growth is) and therefore lend themselves better to cooked preparations.
Like any shoot or micro green, pea shoots don’t just look adorable, they are filled with nutrition. They are particularly high in Vitamins A, C, and folic acid. In fact, according to peashoots.com they contain seven times more vitamin C than blueberries, four times more folic acid than bean sprouts, and a whopping eight times more vitamin A than a tomato. Now that is a nutritious little tendril! If that weren’t enough, pea shoots are low in calories (5 Kcals per one ounce) and have a glycemic load of zero! So eat ‘em up!
At Holcomb Farm we have the opportunity to try pea shoots as a pick your own crop this year. Note that pea shoots, if harvested correctly, continue to grow and fill in, allowing for continued harvest of the shoots for weeks and for mature plants to grow later on. Therefore, it is important to harvest only the top six inches or so of the shoots, leaving at least one leaf with its adjacent node near the soil, so the plants will continue to grow and produce. As the season progresses, the shoots will get tougher and begin to taste bitter. At this point, we will stop harvesting the shoots and wait patiently for the peas to come in. When picking, cut smaller, more tender shoots if you plan to use them for salads. The thicker stemmed pieces will be best either blanched or cooked in some other way (i.e stir fry).
Place unwashed pea shoots in the refrigerator to store. Once cut, pea shoots will last only about 3 days in your fridge so plan to use them up quickly. Wash and gently pat dry just before serving or cooking.
Pea and mint is an early summer match made in heaven. In the following recipe I dress pea shoots and radishes with a lemon mint dressing and serve it atop almond flour-coated chicken cutlets. The bracing lemon vinaigrette cuts nicely through the richness of the nuts on the chicken. If you don’t eat meat, enjoy the salad on its own, maybe served atop a hearty cauliflower steak. While we may not yet have radishes at the farm, save this recipe if you prefer to wait, because we’ll likely be seeing them soon. You don’t want to miss out on this one.
Almond Chicken Cutlets with Lemony-Mint Pea Shoot and Radish Salad Serves 4
– For Chicken:
– 2 large organic or pastured boneless chicken breasts
– 1 cup Almond Meal or Almond Flour, plus 2 tablespoons
– 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
– 3/4 teaspoons onion powder
– 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
– 1 teaspoon Coarse or Kosher sea salt
– pinch cayenne pepper
– 2 large egg whites
– For Salad:
– 2 cups Pea Shoots, thin tender stems and leaves only
– 4 large radishes, thinly sliced
– 1 recipe Lemon Mint Dressing
1. Preheat oven to 400 ℉. Place a baking rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet and spray or brush with olive or avocado oil. Set aside.
Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise. Pound each piece to even them out to about 1/3”-1/4” cutlets.
2. Mix almond meal, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, salt and cayenne in a small container suitable for dredging. In another similar container, place egg whites. lightly whisk egg whites with a fork.
Dip each cutlet into egg white, coating completely and allowing excess egg to drip off before placing in almond mixture. Dredge cutlet in almond mixture, coating it completely. Lay on baking rack set on top of baking sheet. Repeat with remaining 3 cutlets.
Bake cutlets for about 20 minutes, or until they register 165℉ on an instant read thermometer (or until no longer pink in thickest part of cutlets). Remove from oven.
3. Meanwhile, wash and gently pat dry pea shoots. Place pea shoots and sliced radishes in a small bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat and taste.
Place cooked cutlets on individual plates. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Divide pea shoot salad evenly over cutlets and serve immediately.
Lemon Mint Dressing
– 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, or juice of 1 large lemon
– 1 teaspoon lemon zest
– 1 large sliced scallion, white and light green parts only
– 1/4 cup fresh mint
– 1 teaspoon honey
– 1/4-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
– pinch ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in a blender or in a container wide and long enough to contain a stick blender and blend until smooth and emulsified. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if desired. Use immediately or store in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Some of the pea shoots I cut yesterday were on the tougher side so I opted to use them in the following stir fry. I still recommend removing the largest, toughest stems because even cooking won’t make those tender.
Pea Shoot and Bok Choy Stir Fry Serves 2
– 2 teaspoons avocado oil or oil of choice
– 1 teaspoon grated ginger
– 2 small cloves garlic, grated
– 2 sliced scallions, white and light green parts only
– 1 1/2 cups pea shoots, washed, largest and toughest stems removed
– 1 small bok choy, stalks and greens sliced but separated
– 1/8 teaspoon salt
– 1/8 cup water
– 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
– sesame seeds, for garnish
Heat avocado oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add ginger and garlic and sauce for 1 minute. Add pea shoots, white bok choy stems, water and salt and stir to combine. Cover and cook for about 4-6 minutes or until pea shoot stems are tender. Remove lid and stir in bok choy greens and scallions. Salute another minute or two until greens are tender. Remove from heat. Stir in sesame oil. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.
113 Simsbury Road, West Granby, CT 06090