Amanda & Merrill

Pea Shoots and Sugar Snaps with Preserved Lemon Cream

May  4, 2010

Pea Shoots and Sugar Snaps with Preserved Lemon Cream

- Merrill

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. 

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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

Serves 6

  • 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

1. Using an electric mixer, whip the goat cheese for 2 minutes at medium speed. Fold in the crème fraîche and preserved lemon and set aside (you can cover and refrigerate this for up to a week). Whisk together the Meyer lemon juice and olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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MissGinsu May 9, 2010
Oh, this makes my mouth water just reading about it. I want to try the dressing with other springy greens, too. Seems like there could be a lot of delicious variations on this theme.
wodtke May 4, 2010
Sorry to be so ignorant, but what is the difference between a pea shoot and a pea green?
Merrill S. May 4, 2010
At the greenmarkets here in NYC, you can buy both "pea greens" (which are stems and leaves together, but mostly leaves) and "pea shoots" (which are a little more tender and include fewer, younger leaves).
wodtke May 5, 2010
Thanks Merrill. Appreciate your taking the time to respond. I am in the SF bay area, and a habitue of farmers markets, but have not seen pea greens. Maybe I'm not looking in the right place. Anyone in the bay area know where they might be found?
Claudia K. August 30, 2013
Hello -
I bought some at the Pacific East mall in Richmond (just to the left of the Eastshore freeway). They were not as fresh as I would have liked. They are wonderful, properly done, as I had them in Hong Kong and would love to know if anyone is selling them really fresh.
lapadia May 4, 2010
The flavors, the aroma, the color; this salad sounds Wonderful! Planted snap peas a few weeks back and have made note to make this ASAP. Thanks for sharing!
Merrill S. May 4, 2010
You're very welcome.
healthierkitchen May 4, 2010
This is lovely - I love creme fraiche and I love using pea shoots! And, for the first time, I have preserved Meyer lemons. Can't wait to try this out.
Merrill S. May 4, 2010
I hope you like it!
gluttonforlife May 4, 2010
Is there anything this woman won't put creme fraiche on?! ;-)
Merrill S. May 4, 2010
I have yet to think of anything...
gluttonforlife May 4, 2010
Love it!
Lizthechef May 4, 2010
This looks terrific...Now I am still looking for a preserved lemon recipe, using Meyer lemons. Receipes vary widely re how much salt to use. Help? Thanks-
AntoniaJames May 4, 2010
It actually doesn't matter how much salt you use, as long as the pieces of lemon are dipped in it lightly before putting them in the jar. If there is any extra salt (i.e., big globs or more than what you want, or think you want), you can always rinse it off. In fact, you should rinse them off anyway. Just don't add salt to the dish in which you are using them, until the preserved lemons have had a chance to work their magic on the other ingredients. You actually don't know, from batch to batch, how salty they will taste. The salt flavor is influenced by the acidity and sharpness of the lemon peel and juice, so the end result is affected as much by the lemons as it is by the salt itself. ;o)
WinnieAb May 4, 2010
I've got kind of an interesting one here on this post if you want to have a look:
Lizthechef May 4, 2010
Thanks, guys - will check out your post now, Winnie...
The R. May 4, 2010
What a smashing combination of flavors! Truly original.
Merrill S. May 4, 2010
Thanks! But I can't take much of the credit.
AntoniaJames May 4, 2010
Sounds positively heavenly! Love the wispy shoot/crunchy, sturdy snap pea texture combo; and the inclusion of basil with the preserved lemon is brilliant. Simply cannot wait to try this one . . . stay tuned. ;o)
Merrill S. May 4, 2010
Keep us posted!
MrsWheelbarrow May 4, 2010
What a great recipe! While I'm delighted to find a pea shoot salad, I'm most thrilled about the preserved lemon cream. I have a LOT of preserved lemons from a short period of obsessive fascination with the process.
Midge May 4, 2010
Mrs W, I too have lots of preserved lemons (back from when I had a Meyer lemon tree, sigh). Do you happen to know how long they last in the fridge?
Merrill S. May 4, 2010
They seem to last forever! But I'm sure after about a year they lose some of their luster...
WinnieAb May 4, 2010
I love this! I adore pea shoots any which way...
Merrill S. May 5, 2010
Thanks! Me too.
lastnightsdinner May 4, 2010
We've got a great source of pea greens at our farmers' market, and I'm always looking for new ways to use them - this sounds perfect. Thanks for sharing this recipe with us!
Merrill S. May 4, 2010
You're welcome!