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As soon as pea shoots make their first appearance at the markets each spring, I can’t resist buying a big bag and then subsequently stocking up on the rest of the ingredients for a salad I learned from Ryan Skeen when he was at a great Belgian poutine joint in Gramercy called Resto. A few years ago for the New York Times, I wrote about lamb belly as a hot new ingredient, and printed a recipe for the version Ryan was serving at Resto: a spring lamb belly salad with pea shoots, sugar snaps, Meyer lemon vinaigrette and a preserved lemon cream. It was one of those rare recipes that I truly fell in love with as I tested it for the piece, and it’s since worked its way into my regular rotation.
The lamb belly has since left the building -- it’s not the easiest thing in the world to procure, and Ryan’s method for cooking it contains about 17 different steps. Now, I either make the salad on its own, or as a vibrant bed for grilled lamb or goat chops. It would be great with salmon as well.
The salad is simple but sexy, a tangle of grassy pea shoots and greens dotted with crunchy sweet sugar snaps, all tossed in a simple lemon dressing. The real payoff is slightly hidden: a fragrant dice of preserved lemon is gently folded into a creamy smear of goat cheese and crème fraiche (surprise!) buried beneath the greens. If you’re a purist, you may prefer to enjoy the elements of this salad separately – I like to forgo any formalities and dig right in, making sure to drag my forkful of salad through the trail of preserved lemon cream before taking the first bite.
Pea Greens and Sugar Snaps with Preserved Lemon Cream
- 6 ounces soft goat cheese
- ½ cup crème fraîche
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon, seeds removed
- 3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice (or substitute regular lemon juice and add 1/2 teaspoon of honey)
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound sugar snap peas, rinsed
- 4 cups densely packed pea greens
- 2 cups densely packed pea shoots
- 1/3 cup loosely packed basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon snipped chives
2. In a large saucepan of boiling, salted water, blanch the sugar snaps for 30 seconds, remove with a slotted spoon and immerse in ice water. Drain well and set aside.
3. Gently rinse and dry all of the greens, including the basil.
4. When you are ready to assemble the salad, gently toss the pea greens, pea shoots, and sugar snaps with the dressing and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut the basil leaves into thin ribbons and add to the salad with the chives, tossing gently. Run a thick smear of the goat cheese mixture along the center of each plate and arrange some of the salad on top. Serve immediately.