At any given time of the mild season, there are specific flavors and textures that converge to create practical home meals with real dimension, and nutrition to match. Goldie’s late spring concoction makes my mouth water just at the thought of its intense flavors and varied, complementary textures. She knows this, which is why she wears a giant, playful smile as she prepares her Spring Pea Salad, featuring the dramatically in-season sugar snap pea playing the role of the audible CRUNCH between the canines. In supporting roles are the English pea, the butter bean, the mighty basil leaf, and for a carnivorous enhancement, sliced steak (preferably grass-fed ribeye, grilled to medium-rare). Here’s how she did it, including prep for the unconventional pesto. “Salad” doesn’t begin to describe it. Try it out, and you’ll know what I mean. Then, send me your comments, suggestions, and even your variations.
Spring Pea Salad:
1 lb sugar snap peas
¾ lb English peas, shelled
½ lb asparagus, ½ inch slices on a bias
¾ can butter beans, well rinsed
¾ cup pesto, or to taste (recipe to follow)
10 oz grilled steak (your choice of cut), cubed
Remove and discard the stem end and string from each sugar snap pod.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch sugar snaps for 2 minutes, add to ice bath (a large bowl of water with ice cubes galore – to ‘shock’ the vegetables and prevent further cooking) . Blanch the peas and asparagus for 1 minute and add to ice bath. Drain green vegetables well. Add butter beans, toss with pesto, fold in steak (room temperature is preferred) and serve. Or, for the vegetarian version, you know the drill….skip the steak. It still tastes outrageous and has ample protein!
Preparing the Pesto:
1 ½ – 2 oz nuts (pine nuts are traditional, but cashews or Marcona almonds make for a more dimensional flavor)
1 oz artisanal Parmesan cheese, cut into ¼ inch chunks
½ clove garlic, minced
4 -8 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch basil, stemmed and cleaned
6-12 leaves mint
In a food processor pulse nuts, cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil and whirl until the nuts and cheese have a small pebbly consistency. Add the basil and mint and process, adding olive oil slowly until it turns into a thick paste.
The Wine Pairing:
On a budget, pair your Spring Bean Salad with a feisty, dry, perfumed Australian Riesling to accentuate the herbaceous-ness of the basil. But if you want to get serious, treat yourself to this salad’s perfect compliment: Rhone Syrah. It will not only heighten the flavors of each component (including the steak), but it will reveal the hidden earthy tones in the ingredients.