pea shoots

pea shoots

Just back from this week’s CSA gathering. And: pea shoots! I’ve loved pea shoots ever since I had them sauteed at M Shanghai in Brooklyn—it’s their signature side and on the menu only when the shoots are in season. Which, apparently, is now. Since I sadly won’t make it into Brooklyn this weekend I thought I should try to recreate the M dish at home.

It turns out it's insanely simple. Heat 1 tablespoon of neutral oil in a hot wok and throw in the shoots and a pinch of salt. Cook while stirring until they start to wilt (2-3 minutes) then turn off heat and add a splash of soy sauce or lemon juice or both and (optional) some sesame seeds (or nori which was a spontaneous purchase at H Mart.) I also added a few drops of hot sauce. And then happily ate it all my myself since the boys are in Boston this weekend.

And despite the fact that today’s CSA allotment of cucumbers was…one (damn you rain!), I will still be pickling and making some other new items for my first customer—a friend who wants to give a wedding anniversary gift basket containing Monsters Vs. Dinner products. I’ve been cooking like a mad woman to get everything ready: beef jerky, onion jam, cherry chutney, garlic herb salt and of course pickles. I’ve been experimenting with salt levels and fermented vs. fridge. It’s a whole lotta science but pretty fascinating and once I get it down, I’ll be a pickling machine—making my MFA in fiction finally worthwhile.

csa madness

CSA Strawberries

I signed up for The Rivertown CSA this year which means that on Saturdays, I go to town and pick up whatever the local farm has harvested that week. But every time I return home with our weekly allotment, I panic. HOW AM I GOING TO USE THIS PERFECT PRODUCE BEFORE IT ALL GOES BAD? I need to immediately start portioning, assigning, cooking and freezing.

For example, I knew we would never eat 3 baskets of blueberries because the boys would rather eat slime than try them (they said that.) I couldn't bear those beautifully tart firm berries turning to mush. So I froze one basket on a tray and then put them into a plastic bag for smoothies or just some late night snacking. I did the same with the sweet strawberries that actually tasted like strawberries (hulling them before I froze them.)

With the basil that I feared wilting into blackness, I quickly pureed with purple scallions (also from the CSA), pine nuts that have been in my freezer since I learned to cook, parmesan that the kids no longer like with pasta, lemon and olive oil. I froze this chunky pesto too. 

For the Swiss chard, I separated the leaves from the stems and chopped both. I heated olive oil in a pan then sauteed garlic for 1 minute, added stems and cooked for 5 minutes then added leaves, salt and dashes of both cider vinegar and fish sauce. When they were wilted, I stirred in a tablespoon of greek yogurt and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Throughout the week, I used it three times: I served it as a side dish, mixed it into cauliflower rice and added it to scrambled eggs. 

Finally the cucumbers--I turned to my mom's recipe. Cut into small pieces (you could also mandolin), place in large tupperware and add white wine vinegar and salt to taste. Let these mellow out in the fridge for a day or two and the simple pickle becomes a great snack and easy salad ingredient. 

So within an hour of picking up farm fresh vegetables, I had turned them into not-so fresh produce, which maybe is totally insane. It is, right?