Almond Soba Noodles with Pea Shoots

Almond Soba IngredientsYet another reason to love pea shoots, and San Francisco-based Heidi Swanson, author of the 101 Cookbooks blog and wonderful cookbooks. If you don’t know about Heidi, check out her blog. Wonderful recipes and beautiful photography (unlike here, where the flash bounces off the tablet, and Grey Cat forgets to take a pic of the final dish).

Anyway, soba noodles, almond butter, pea shoots, basil, Thai curry paste. What’s not to love? I didn’t have any almond butter, so made my own in the food processor (1C almonds toasted on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees, then buzzed in the processor with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil until smooth). And don’t be afraid of the tofu, it was quite tasty here. This is a FAST dish to prepare, and the leftovers were good cold the next day.

Almond Soba Noodles with Pea Shoots

2 teaspoons red curry paste
1/3 cup unsalted almond butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
very scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
6 – 8 tablespoons hot water
12 ounces dried soba noodles
12 ounces extra-firm nigari tofu
4 ounces pea shoots (or other greens, or tiny pieces of broccoli)
12 leaves fresh basil, slivered
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Make the almond sauce by mashing the curry paste into the almond butter. Stir in the lemon juice and salt. And then whisk in the hot water one tablespoon at a time until you have a pourable dressing that is about as thick as a heavy cream. The dressing thickens as it cools, so feel free to thin it out with more water later on if needed. Taste, and add more salt or more curry paste if you like.

Cook the soba in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water. Drain and shake off as much water as possible.

While the pasta is cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry, and cut it into matchsticks or 1/2-inch cubes. Cook the tofu, along with a pinch or two of salt, in a well-seasoned skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Add a tiny splash of oil if needed to prevent sticking. Toss gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden, and bouncy. About 15 seconds before the tofu has finished cooking, add the pea shoots to the hot pan.

In a large bowl combine the noodles with 2/3 of the almond sauce. Toss well, be sure all the noodles get coated. Arrange the tofu and pea shoots on top of the noodles, drizzle with the remaining sauce, and garnish with the slivered basil and toasted almonds.

Serves 6-8 as a side, less as a main.

Prep time: 10 min – Cook time: 20 min

Pea Shoot & Spinach Salad with Shiitakes and Bacon

I adore the joy of discovery. This week, it was pea shoots. I’ve seen recipes using them for years, but had never actually seen them in real life. I know, farmer’s markets have them in the spring, but getting out of bed at the crack of dawn on a Spring Saturday on the off chance that I’ll find an item I’m not even sure I like? Sorry, not happening. Happily, received a bag of them in this week’s CSA box. Lots of recipes feature pea shoots with peas of various sorts, but Mr. Grey Cat doesn’t eat peas, so…. a little trip out to the Epicurious archives yielded Pea Shoot and Spinach Salad with Bacon and Shiitakes. The Mister NEVER says no to bacon (smart man, yes?!), so I knew I was on to something. I have to admit that after trying a few shoots (I call it quality control)  I almost didn’t make the dish. Not because it didn’t sound good, but because it was all I could do not to eat the rest of the shoots by the handful. They were so sweet and delicate and tender. Anyway, the salad turned out beautifully. Green things, crisp bacon (regular bacon, I didn’t have the double-smoked stuff), mmmmmm. And the mushrooms take it over the top in the good category. So Pea Shoots get a check mark the AWESOME category. Oh, I’ll be getting out of bed on Saturdays in the Spring now.

Pea Shoot and Spinach Salad with Bacon and Shiitakes

  • 1 (1/4-pound) piece double-smoked bacon*
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps quartered
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon coarse-grain mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 oounces fresh pea shootspea shoots (4 cups)
  • 4 ounces baby spinach leaves (4 cups)
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 6 radishes, cut into matchsticks

Cut bacon into 3/4-inch-thick matchsticks and cook in a heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until crisp but still chewy, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Pour off fat from skillet and add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, mushrooms, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are golden, about 8 minutes, then cool.

Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large salad bowl until blended.

Add pea shoots and spinach to dressing and toss to coat. Add bacon, mushrooms, chives, and radishes and toss again.



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Great Greens

The finished dish

I didn’t grow up eating greens. They weren’t exactly a staple in a 1960s /1970s Mexican-American household. But any ingredient whose typical preparation involves salt pork and hot sauce can’t be anywhere near bad, and I’ve had awesome Southern-style greens, served with crisp fried chicken and cornbread. Mmmm. But Southern style greens take about an hour to cook, and I wanted something fast. Enter Mario Batali with quick wilted greens with garlic and anchovies. I know, anchovies. I don’t use them often, think they smell like cat food. And the cats agree. The furballs rarely come to the kitchen while I’m cooking, but crack open a tin of anchovies and suddenly 3 begging pairs of eyes are boring into my soul. Anyway, don’t let the smell make you skip the anchovies; they give wonderful salty joy to the dish, and the scent will blend in with the garlic and the greens. Oh, and I used what I thought was a HUGE amount of greens– about a full plastic shopping bag full, and got about 4 servings.

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 head escarole or 1 head or bunch other sturdy leafy green, such as dandelions or turnip greens, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide ribbons, washed and spun dry
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  1/2 lemon

Heat a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the olive oil, anchovies, and garlic and cook just until the garlic is light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Add the greens and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, squeeze the lemon juice over, and serve.

So it Begins!

Salad Turnips, Radishes, Turnip Greens, Kale, Pea ShootsA vegetable garden in the beginning looks so promising and then after all little by little it grows nothing but vegetables, nothing, nothing but vegetables.

–Gertrude Stein


First blog post, and first distribution this week from the Farm Indy CSA. Love Gertrude, she was one of a kind, but she sure missed the boat on this one. If her garden produced nothing but vegetables like the ones in my box this week,  I’m sure she’d have changed her mind! This week we got:

Radishes, Salad Turnips, Turnip Greens, Kale, Pea Shoots, Spinach, and Mixed Salad Greens

It’s going to be a good week for eating at our house! I’ve never had Salad Turnips or Pea Shoots and can’t wait to try out these new ingredients. I’ll be posting recipes and more pictures as I try them through the week.

June 12, 2012Permalink 1 Comment

Adventures in Food

I know, another blog about food. But why not? I like to cook, I like to eat. I like to discover things and share with friends and family. Better yet, food makes friends and family of anyone who sits at your table to enjoy it. Want to learn about someone? Ask them about food! You’ll almost always hear a story–  that wonderful dish that Grandma used to make; mom’s awesome _____; the time Dad almost set fire to the back porch putting too much starter fuel on the barbecue.

This is a record of MY food stories. Some from friends and family, some from adventures in local international markets, and since it’s summer, some from fun with the weekly box of fresh, beautiful, locally grown vegetables from the wonderful folks at the Farm Indy, CSA*. Sometimes I’ll try someone else’s recipe, sometimes I’ll wing it, and sometimes I’ll share a food quote or tell a story to go with.

Sort of like Chopped, the TV show where chefs cook amazing meals with a basket of mystery ingredients, but in real life (and in much slower motion!).

I am an omnivore, but love to cook for my vegetarian friends too, so some days we’ll have meat, other days we’ll veg it up!

Go ahead, have a seat. Share your food stories and see what’s on the menu.


*Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) lets consumers buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Basically, a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables &/or other farm products. Interested consumers purchase a share in advance of the season, and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the growing season.