Pea Shoot Pesto With Lemon And Mint From Cure Organic
An easy and delicious pesto that goes great with chicken and pasta, grilled cheese, and just about anything!
If you had told me months ago, when the idea for this blog was beginning to take shape in my mind, that my first post would be anything to do with pea shoots I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s not that I have anything against pea shoots – I just never gave them much thought. I dreamt about finding ripe juicy tomatoes to whip into gazpacho, fresh cucumbers to pickle, and an abundance of plump berries to turn into pie.
But pea shoots? I’ve no idea what to do with them. But, since we are still in the middle of May here in Colorado, and I’m determined to work with what is in season and local for this blog, pea shoots it is!
I went to Cure Organic, a small family farm on the outskirts of Boulder to score this week’s bounty. Cure sells mostly to restaurants and farmers markets in the area, and through their CSA shares. They also have a quaint little farm store, with all sorts of goodies, and are the occasional host to Meadowlark dinners, the wonderful traveling dinner program that pops up at local farms throughout the area.
This farm is adorable, and all about “connecting the community with the land”, so they offer all sorts of programs, tours, and kids camps to accomplish this. And in case you’re wondering, they don’t just offer herbs and veggies – they house honey bees, hens and ducks, pigs, chickens, and Rambouillet sheep that are raised for meet and wool. Pretty cool.
Being this early in the season the selection was a bit slim. Arthur, the nice gentleman who happened to be working there when I stopped in, assured me that in a couple of weeks their tables would be overflowing with colorful fruits and veggies. On this particular trip however, it was mostly an assortment of greens.
I’d never done anything with pea shoots so I was intrigued when I saw them and decided to give them a go. After wrapping them up, along with a bunch of fresh mint, I was on my way and racking my brain with how to prepare them.
It turns out that pea shoots are incredibly versatile. They have long tendrils and, much like watercress, you can eat the whole thing, so they’re lovely to toss into a salad or throw atop a plate of pasta. Pea shoots have also been used for centuries in Asian dishes, something that I will no doubt try my hand at in my next venture with them.
Arthur told me that one of his favorite things about pea shoots is how they change with the season. This time of year they tend to be a bit earthy, whereas once summer hits they take on a sweeter taste. After considering this, my thoughts went immediately to something that would benefit from a strong, earthy taste and a rich texture – pesto.
I’m no stranger to pesto. I love that pretty much anything can be turned into pesto if you add garlic, oil, nuts and cheese. I also love that what you add can make the pesto so very different. Feeling traditional? Basil and pine nuts it is. Craving a little spice? Toss in some red chilies. Only have walnuts on hand? No problem – sub them in, or whatever else you happen to have lying around. You really can’t mess this up. (A strong selling point when deciding what to make for your very first blog post on a cooking site!).
I started with the basics – extra virgin olive oil, toasted pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, and the pea shoots. Aside from a cutting board, all you really need for this recipe is a food processor and a pan.
I began by toasting the pine nuts for about 2 minutes in a pan over medium heat. You’ll know the nuts are done when they start to smell fragrant. You don’t have to toast the nuts, but it adds a nice roasted element to the finished product that goes great with the pesto.
Next, I processed three garlic cloves, the nuts, and a couple of chunks of parmesan (about 3 ounces) very roughly in the food processor.
Finally, I added the about 1/3 cup of olive oil and 2 cups of pea shoots and processed them until the pesto started to turn a vibrant green and mix into a thick paste-like consistency. I added a little bit of salt and then gave it a taste. Not bad – it was definitely earthy, but the overall flavor was a little bland and not quite as spring-like as I had hoped for.
I decided to throw in some of the mint that I had also purchased from Cure Organic, and the juice of half a lemon. These two ingredients really took the sauce from good to great – the mint added just a bit more complexity to the dish and the lemon lightened it up tremendously.
We ate this atop some whole wheat pasta (a no-brainer), but let me tell you I’ve been adding it to all sorts of dishes this week and the results have been nothing short of terrific. I jazzed up a grilled cheese sandwich by spreading a thick layer of it on, added it to eggs to give them an extra kick, and have even been eating it straight out of the bowl as a dip for crackers and veggies. I seriously cannot get enough of it.
Pea shoots – the veggie I never knew I was missing! Just my two cents – you’re going to want to make a double batch of this stuff.
Pea Shoot Pesto with Lemon and Mint
2 Cups Pea Shoots
1/2 Cups Pine Nuts, Lightly Toasted
3 Garlic cloves
3 oz Parmesan
Juice from 1/2 lemon
½ Cup fresh mint leaves
1/3 Cup Oil
1 Tsp Salt + More To Taste
Toast the pine nuts for about 2 minutes in a skillet over medium heat.
Add the garlic, nuts, and Parmesan to a food processor and pulse until mixture is roughly chopped.
Add in the pea shoots, mint, oil, lemon juice and salt and pulse until the mixture turns to a bright green paste. The sauce will be fairly thick, which is great for spreads and dips, but if you want it a little more “saucy” to put atop pasta, you may wish to add another ¼ cup of oil.)
Enjoy over pasta, as a spread, or as a dip for veggies or crackers.
Cure Organic Farm, 7450 Valmont Rd., Boulder, CO 80301. Check out their website for more details: www.cureorganicfarm.com.