Monday, July 25, 2011

UnRecipe: Appreciating the Green Pea-ness of Gardening

You know I just wanted an excuse to use that stupid joke about "green pea-ness." Say  it out loud in a large, crowded room of your work peers and HR representatives, that you appreciate the flavor of green pea-ness. I dare you. This is why I should never be let back into Corporate America, people.

Pea vines invading my mapo tofu - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Of course, this has nothing to do with anatomical discussions, more a moment to further ruminate on one of the nice things of living out in BFE-ville and having the benefit of a sizeable yard. I literally let two whole packets of sugar snap and snow pea seeds germinate, sprout into a Medusa-like tangle of roots between wet paper towels, and then meticulously plant every one of 'em into our vegetable garden beds. Ergo, we have a mofo-plethora of pea plants. Initially, it was nice to thin the rows, pulling the more tender shoots to eat in salads and make dishes more whimsical with the thread-like corkscrew fronds from the creeping vines. When the plants get big, you fall behind on the row-thinning, it's more like Day of the Triffids, and you're just hacking back what you can, just in the hopes the garden bed doesn't choke itself out from overplanting. This leads to the latest batch of hastily unplanned UnRecipes... 

Not just for delicate restaurant plating -- pea vines used as hearty greens - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Much like the logic behind CSA-cooking, aka, Weekly Iron Chef Madness -- all roads lead to stir-fry. Once washing and (hopefully) de-bugging all the overgrown pea vines, they can be chopped up and cooked down like any hearty green. When it's fresh and raw, you pick up the distinct sweetness of peas, but as the vines get thicker, they're not as tender, the leaves can be used for salads, but the vines themselves get a little tough. They can still be cooked down the way you would a bunch of chard or spinach, but I tend to strip the leaves and cook the chopped stems first, to give them a head-start before the leaves are added to wilt down as a finish.

I always have good intentions towards the weekly Meatless Monday challenge, to incorporate one day of sustainable animal-free meals during the week. Emphasis on "intention," as somehow a little bit of meat always works its way into my day, but at least once in a while, I'll get away with making a meatless dish and Mr. Wasabi won't even notice. Or at least he doesn't put up a huge fuss about it, bless his heart. I was able to make a savory and creamy peanut coconut milk curry, mixed with tofu, chickpeas and basically whatever I had in the pantry, but also included pea vines. These were the larger, more mature vines, so they were chopped small and cooked down so you didn't have to gnaw on them for too long. I did something similar with one of my quick-cook staples, mapo tofu. If I have extra vegetables, they're always easy to incorporate in the spicy, salty, sour mix of tofu and ground meat. I threw in some rough-chopped pea vines into the last batch of mapo tofu and they wilted down and mixed in with the other ingredients perfectly.

None of these dishes are particularly glamorous or fancy, it's more a way to cook with whatever's on-hand and improvise when needed. I was glad to say that once pea vines grow out of their restaurant-darling tender delicacy phase, they're still a player in the kitchen, if you don't mind making some simple, hearty fare. And if you get it from your own backyard, it saves you a trip to pick up something at the store or farmer's market.

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