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. 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. —Merrill Stubbs
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.
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.
Gently rinse and dry all of the greens, including the basil.
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.