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Archive for September 7th, 2009

getting fresh and staying local

pea shoots

Locavores scare me. So do über-environmentalists. Those people who are obsessed with getting all their food from local farmers, who eschew trucks that bring bottled water from natural sources (Fiji?), and pineapples grown in Costa Rica. Because, let’s face it, despite now living in crunchy crunchy Cantabrigia where people recycle like mad and have compost pails in their kitchens and backyards (I don’t), I like my meat and cheese from France, and regularly carry home or import food from around the world.

I first experienced really local food when my family would pick surplus berries and tomatoes at our friend’s farm in the boonies of Maryland. My mom always made tomato sauce to freeze for the rest of the year. In the summer, we used to stop at roadside stands for corn-on-the-cob.

When I moved to New York after college, I discovered the the Union Square Greenmarket a few blocks from my first “suit job.” I used to wander around during my lunch break, but rarely made a purchase. When I returned to New York after graduate school, I often bought apples the growing number of farm stands at the 76th and Columbus Sunday flea market. And when the weather was good, I used to buy most of my produce from the corner fruit and vegetable guys on the Upper West Side (save for trips to Fairway). This past week visiting NY was not much different as I found some not-so fancy, but all-the-same lovely berries and peaches for my morning breakfast while staying at my friend Meira’s (who was characteristically generous in offering her home while out of town).

fruit at Meira's

Despite my growing dependence on outdoor markets for some produce, I had forgotten that greens don’t always arrive triple-washed in a plastic bag.

And then I moved north. And Cantabrigia is rubbing off on me. If you’re been on this little food journey with me for a while, I’m sure you know that I joined a CSA. Weekly or bi-weekly, I receive vegetables and some fruit and herbs from a nearby farm. Over the past few weeks, I’ve figured out how to prepare chard and hakurei turnips, garlic scape pesto, and no-cook collards. And we can’t forget the kale that started it all.

This summer, as a true Cantabrigian, I’ve been dining on a fair amount of rabbit fare – fresh romaine, red and green leaf lettuce. I don’t bother to put away my large stainless bowl in which I dunk the greens in wash after wash of fresh cold water, gently agitating to remove any clinging grit and soil. I even bought a salad spinner (also stainless) to facilitate my new salad habit.

One of the first things I did upon returning from New York was to hit up my local farmers market and pick up some greens and fill up my stainless  bowl.

It feels good to be home.

Super fresh salad of pea shoots, tomatoes, and corn

farm-fresh ingredients

Inspired by what I found at my local farmers market and some of my sister’s favorite flavors (corn is her favorite salad add-in), this salad tastes incredibly fresh due to the pea shoots. I once had pea shoots in a restaurant and was excited when I saw them with one of the vendors in the market. Pea shoots are also sometimes called pea tendrils; there may be blossoms on the stems that are edible (and lovely). They taste like sugar snap peas in leaf form.The dressing for this salad, like most of my summer staples, is a simple splash of oil, a tiny bit of acid (lemon juice or white wine vinegar) and salt and pepper. Just enough to wet the ingredients without overpowering the natural flavors.

There are no measurements for this salad – it’s sort of come as you go. This is how much I make for a single serving.

Prepare the pea shoots: rinse in cold water and drain. They will last a loosely covered bowl in the fridge for 3-4 days (if you don’t eat them first). Grab 1-2 handfuls of pea shoots per person and tear into good-sized bowl. If you’d like, add a handful of farm-fresh greens, also rinsed, any dirt removed, and torn into the bowl.

Slice a handful of cherry tomatoes (5-8) in half and add to the shoots.

Grill or roast one ear of corn. Cut kernels off of cob into the bowl.

Add a splash of extra virgin olive oil (~1T), a squeeze of lemon or a few drops of white wine vinegar (1-2 t to taste), a pinch or two of kosher salt, and a few grinds of pepper.

Toss and savor the flavors of summer.

pea shoots, tomato, and corn off the cob

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