Pea tendrils - compressedThe delicate flavors of young spring vegetables only make their appearance for a short period of time.  Now is the time to enjoy radishes, rhubarb, spring onions, and peas while they’re at their peak.

While shopping the farmer’s market last week for inspiration for my Easter Brunch contribution I was excited to find pea shoots!  Pea shoots or  pea tendrils are the young tender new growth of pea plants.  They will often have white flowers on them and usually have very fine curly tendrils on the tips.  They have a distinctive pea-like flavor and are sometimes included in commercial blends of mixed greens.  They can sometimes be found in Asian markets.  For best quality, store as you would most greens.   My preference for best quality and shelf-life is to use a “Salad-Sac” for storing greens & herbs.

 Their distinctive but delicate pea-like flavor can be easily overwhelmed by other strong flavors so I decided to combine them with similarly delicate flavors so that they could all blend harmoniously without one fighting to take center stage.  Another vendor had young tender sugarsnap peas which would be a natural…two different forms of the same plant!  When I think of sweet vegetables cucumbers come to mind as well, not that they’re really sweet but the refreshing flavor and crisp texture would work well with the crisp pea pods and flavors.  Finally for some color as well as flavor I decided to add a pop of brightness with strawberries which also work well with the flavor of cucumbers.  Blue cheese balanced the sweet flavors with a  bit of saltiness and the mild sweetness of a sherry vinaigrette finished it off.

Pea, cucumber & strawberry salad - Easter 2011 - compressed

Spring Salad of Peas, Tendrils, Strawberries & Cucumbers

I’m not a terribly huge fan of recipe titles that simply read like a list of ingredients but in this case what else do you call it? I suppose it could just be Spring Salad but that seems so vague it’s not going to communicate anything about the recipe.

 Yield: 8-10 generous servings

 Sherry Vinaigrette:
6 tablespoons sherry vinegar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
¼ cup olive oil

 Salad:
½ lb. sugarsnap peas
1 hothouse (English) cucumber
1 lb. strawberries
1 quart pea tendrils
½ cup crumbled blue cheese

Viniagrette:
Combine sherry vinegar, salt, pepper, honey and shallot in a small mixing bowl. Whisk together the vinegar mixture to dissolve the sugar and blend the honey with the vinegar. While whisking vigorously in a zig-zag motion to emulsify the dressing, drizzle the oil into the vinegar mixture in a thin stream. Continue to whisk for about 20 seconds after the last of the oil has been incorporated to create a better emulsion.

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, honey or shallots as necessary. Set aside for later use. Dressing may be kept refrigerated for about 2-3 weeks.

Salad:
Pull the “string” from the seam side of the sugarsnap peas. If peas are long, break in half to create bite-size pieces. Place peas in a large mixing bowl.

Slice cucumber lengthwise and use a small teaspoon to scrape the seeds from the interior of the cucumber. Place the seeded cucumber cut-side down on a cutting board and slice into 1/4-inch thick half-moons. Add to bowl with the peas.

Trim the tops off of the strawberries and cut berries into bite-size pieces, either quarters or sixths, depending on size of the fruit. Add to the peas and cucumbers along with the pea tendrils and crumbled blue cheese. Whisk the dressing to blend together and drizzle over salad in the bowl. Toss to coat everything evenly with the dressing and serve plated on individual plates or on a large platter.

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