Monday, April 2, 2018

Peas, Please Me Do!

In New England, fresh pea season begins in June. Maybe. (After all, a traditional 4th of July dish here is salmon and peas--though not at our house.) But when Easter rolls around, I find myself wanting peas in some form, usually soup. Maybe even a cold soup, if the holiday is late enough in the spring, or the day is not too blustery.

If I'm stalwart about pea soup for Easter, I'm faithless when it comes to the recipe. Always searching for something that approximates the version that seems to exist only in my imagination. However, this year, I found something that came close: a Martha Rose Shulman recipe that appeared in The New York Times in July 2011. (How did I miss it before?)

Though I had to use frozen peas -- specifically Woodstock Farms Organic Green Peas-- the abundance of fresh herbs the recipe calls for--tarragon, chives, mint, and parsley-- gave it a just picked flavor.

The true test: even the non-soup eaters at our table cleaned out their bowls.

It was easy to make, too. Just three steps: Sauté a few leeks in butter, add the peas, some chopped lettuce, and stock and simmer. Puree it all with the herbs. Then chill and serve.

It was a great opening to a festive meal. And best of all, I think it will be delightful come June when fresh local farmers' market peas are finally in season!

Chilled Pea, Lettuce and Herb Soup

By Martha Rose Shulman

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. (I used just one T. of butter and didn't add the oil called for later.)
2 leeks, white and light green part
only, cleaned and sliced
Salt to taste
5 cups frozen or fresh peas (1 1/2
pounds, or 2 12-ounce bags frozen)
3 cups, tightly packed, coarsely chopped Boston or bibb lettuce
5 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped chives, plus additional for garnish

Step 1
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil (I used butter) over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Add the peas, lettuce and stock (I used homemade chicken stock) or water, and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer five minutes. Remove from the heat. Drain through a strainer set over a bowl, and allow the vegetables and the broth to cool for 15 minutes. Taste the broth, and season as desired.

Step 2
Working in batches, purée the vegetables and herbs in a blender with
the broth and additional olive oil for two minutes (I omitted the additional oil) until frothy and
smooth. Pour into a bowl, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust
seasonings. Chill for several hours.

Step 3
Serve, garnishing with additional chives, tarragon and/or mint. (I thought there was plenty of tarragon flavor, so I just used chives.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Relish the Radish

Photos by Lynn Schweikart  © 2016

I used to think there was no better way to savor a radish than on a fresh baguette slathered with French butter. Even better if eaten "sur un pique-nique", in a Parisian park. Then I found this recipe for a radish salad -- so simple to prepare, yet so delicious! The past few weeks, the Wake Robin Farm stand at the Portsmouth Farmers' Market has been tempting me with bunches of jewel-like radishes.  So it was an "occasion fortuntate" to enjoy this recipe again. 

I had come across it in a July 2003 New York Time article by Mark Bittman (Mark, I miss you, please, enough with this "entrepreneurial" detour -- come back to writing your Minimalist food columns!) I liked the combination of fruit juices, piquant chili pepper, and herbs. I liked how easy it was to prepare. Most of all, I liked how it took radishes from the supporting role they play in most salads, and gave them the starring role! 

The salad takes about 20 minutes to prepare, but for 15 of those minutes, you do nothing while the radishes take a salt-water bath!

RADISH SALAD ala Mark Bittman (Serves 4)
About 12 radishes, thinly sliced  (Bittman recommends using mandolin, but I just used a sharp knife.) 
1 tablespoon salt (I used kosher)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon orange juice
Ground Urfa pepper or other mild chilies to taste (Bittman says this is optional, but I love the rich, smoky taste of Urfa, with its hint of heat. I also think its deep maroon color adds a nice visual interest.)
2 tablespoons chopped mint or cilantro.  (I used a combination of both -- why not?)

1. Combine radishes with salt, and cover with water in a bowl. Let sit 15 minutes. Drain, and rinse.
2. Meanwhile, stir together the pepper and fruit juices.
3. Toss radishes with dressing and chilies. Taste. Add more salt, pepper or lime juice as needed.

4. Garnish with the herbs, and serve.