12 June 2007

The Simple Life

More and more I’m beginning to appreciate the joy that comes from the small things in life. The little anticipation as I pick up the Sunday paper, waiting to see what’s inside it’s many pages. Looking forward to Fridays, or going out in the morning and checking on my tomato plants, seeing which ones have new blossoms or tiny fruits. This Wednesday is the day for newspaper recycling, and I actually got a little excited thinking about it (I know, that’s sort of pathetic, but it also means getting rid of the stacks cluttered by the stairs). It’s those small pleasures that can bring a little excitement and which carry us from day to day.

Take last week for example, we went to the farmer’s market early Saturday morning as usual, where we found our favorite greens-guys were selling pea shoots. We eagerly picked some up, and remembering a good friend who always loves pea shoots at dim sum, called her to tell her about our find. After exchanging pea-shoot news, she told us she was giving away all her vinyl (having upgraded to an iPod), and we were welcome to come over and pick out some of her old records. We took her a small bag of greens, and came home with a treasury of Persian records, Leonard Cohen, and archival folk songs. That evening, I dragged the old record player out of a closet and dug up my favorite Mercedes Sosa album that my mom bought in Argentina in 1982. It was a perfect early summer evening and we opened all the doors and cranked up the volume loud enough to annoy the neighbors, clanked wine glasses and danced on the porch. I can’t think of a better lineage for a Saturday.

The next day, I took our pea shoots and lightly steamed them with a little oil. After piling them on a platter, I went out into the garden and raided our plants for some nasturtium blossoms and got a few tiny chive flowers from the herb garden (only use the smallest youngest chive blossoms otherwise they’ll be too strong). It was a simple natural evolution of a dish, and added up to something beautiful. We had it for dinner with some buttered carrots and radishes and baked crab cakes, and after watching a DVD, indulged in one of my favorite simple pleasures. Going to bed early. The little things.

Steamed Pea Shoots with Nasturtium and Chive Blossoms
Pea shoots are the young tender vine-like leaves of pea plants. Their pea-flavored leaves are excellent in salads and stir fries; they are popular in Chinese cuisine, where they are known as dou miao. Look for pea shoots in farmers’ markets or Asian markets. You want only tender new growth: taste-test the shoots and tendrils and discard any tough or stringy bits, keeping only the tender leaves and stems.

Nasturtiums or other edible flowers make a pretty garnish. Use only the youngest smallest chive flowers or they will be too strong and pungent, or substitute a few chopped chives.

1 bag pea shoots
2 tbl sesame oil
a few very young chive blossoms

1. Prepare a vegetable steamer or a colander set over a pot of boiling water. Use scissors to trim pea shoots into short segments, about 3 inches each. Trim away and discard any very thick stems or tough tendrils (I find the tendrils in particular have a tendency to be stringy, so either trim them into short lengths or discard them).
2. Toss the pea shoots with the sesame oil. Working in batches, very lightly steam the pea shoots until they are bright green but not wilted. Transfer the pea shoots to a serving platter and season with salt. Scatter nasturtiums and chives over top and serve.

More pea shoot recipes:
Pea Tendril and Daikon Noodle Salad
Strawberry and Pea Shoot Toasts with Pepper Jelly
Sesame Pea-Shoot Salad


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

You are just so right Mercedes and the salad is absolutely beautiful! I miss checking my tomato plants now that you brought it up.

Wendy said...

What a beautiful blog!
Delighted to realise that everything in this salad is growing in my garden.

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right. Some people might find certain things boring, but it´s delightful to be able to enjoy the little things in life.
And by the way, you keep making different references to Argentina, so I´m curious to know your connection to my country, care to share?

Big Boys Oven said...

What a colourful dish!