Thursday, June 17, 2010
When Life Gives You Snap Peas...
But first I must digress--it's early for that, I know, but what can you do.... "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade," appears to be a harmless, optimistic cliché, with it's implication of turning something bad into something good. But since when, I ask, are lemons the epitome of something bad? Since when are lemons bad, at all? I wish life would give me lemons, lots of them. I'd not only make lemonade (maybe I'd sweeten it with maple syrup, to keep things a little local), but I'd also set a batch of preserved lemons curing, make lemon curd, carve a twist for my martini, spike an aioli (not too much, we're not making lemon mayonnaise), douse some chicken thighs with lemon juice to then rub with thyme and garlic, grate in some lemon zest, ready for the grill. And lots of other things. Bring on the lemons. Although they don't grow here. But we're not dogmatic.
Lemons are sour, but sour isn't bad. If life gave you Twinkies, now that would be bad. I'd like to see what you'd do then. Turning Twinkies into something good, now that would be a culinary miracle to match the loaves and fishes.
Sabayon. Tabouli. Hollandaise. Life would be dull without lemons.
I only mention the lemons-lemonade thing because there hasn't been a great variety of vegetables at the market yet this year. I think everyone's a little puzzled, because spring got off to such a fast start, one of the warmest Aprils on record. But then early May was much colder than normal, with frost as late as we've seen it in many years. The rest of the month moderated, but not so much that we'll be seeing cucumbers or zucchini any time soon, never mind peppers and tomatoes. Although, the corn and apples will be early this year, I hear, so go figure.
What we have had is a long season of lovely lettuces, and pot greens, radishes well past their usual woody and bolting time, and peas, mostly sugar snap peas. Those are the ones, of course, that look like regular "English peas," all plumped up, unlike snow peas, but you can eat the whole thing, shell and all. For a few weeks now snap peas have been the only above-ground vegetable-that's-not-a-leaf available at the market, and we've used them in stir fries and steam sautés, sliced them into salads, cheater's noodle bowl, snacked on them raw (the dogs love them, too). I won't say I'm tired of them, but I will welcome the sight of a summer squash or green bean, some day soon, I hope.
Getting on with it: Last night I was driving home from a market committee meeting, after 7:00, and I knew Mary was making tortillas (duck confit fat for the shortening, freekin' magic...) to have with some carnitas I'd sort of accidentally made out of a smoked pork shoulder, and I was trying to think of something fresh and crunchy to serve with our tacos, but I knew that those usual salsa suspects, the tomatoes, peppers, cukes, were nowhere to be had, locally, and then I thought, Hey, I'll make a snap pea salsa!
And I did. And it was good. I could also see a nice piece of grilled fish resting on a bed of this.
Snap Pea Salsa
Makes a generous cup
1 cup sugar snap peas
2 green onions--use the white and some of the green
juice of 1/4 lemon (or if life has given you a lot of limes, use lime juice)
2 Tbsp sunflower oil*
2 pinches salt
1/2 tsp sambal oelek--chili paste with garlic--or a small chili, chopped fine
String the peas if need be--I find they usually have a pretty tough string on the top--and chop them medium-fine, 1/4- to 1/3-inch pieces. Chop the green onions the same way. Mix everything together. Best if it sits 20 minutes or so. Can be made a day ahead.
You could add some herbs to this, too. Basil, parsley, mint. Cilantro if you like it, but I don't. If life gave me cilantro, I would be challenged.
This blog's theme is not meant to imply that there is anything bad about snap peas. Not a bit.
* I mentioned in a recent post about mayonnaise that I'd found a local producer of virgin sunflower oil, Smude. We ordered a bottle, and we've really been enjoying it, using it mainly in salads. It has a nice, mild, nutty taste, and a very pleasant viscosity. It matches with the delicate flavors of tender spring greens very well.
Text and photos copyright 2010 by Brett Laidlaw