In today’s post, we’re not travelling far, just to Trout Lake Farmers’ Market and Granville Island here in Vancouver. But we’ll start with lunch.
“What’s the best dish you cooked this year?” I asked my friend Teresa over lunch at the Royal Dinette late last December.
“Good question,” she said, having another forkful of pulled pork with fresh, charred and pickled cabbage in a good vinaigrette. “Let me think about that. How about you?”
“The Pea Salad I brought to your house for book club lunch last May.”
“Oh that was sooo good.” High praise as Teresa can coax flavor out of a turnip, her home cooking skills a combination of Alice Waters and Suzanne Goin.
Magellan and I rated Food and Wine magazine’s recipe for Herbed Pea Puree and Ricotta Salad with Black Garlic and Lemon Confiture a 10/10, a rare score in our kitchen. Many others concur. On Food and Wine’s website, the recipe has a five-star rating from almost 3,700 people.
Why is it so good?
- Peas aplenty
Just like when we were kids, you’ll need to shell fresh garden peas, although the time it used to take, expanded in retrospect, now seems shorter and the ping! of the first peas on the bottom of the bowl, in the past a signal we’d only just begun an arduous task, now seems pleasant. You cook half of the shelled peas with onion, puree with ricotta and Parmesan and spike with fresh mint and parsley. (BTW, this puree makes a good bruschetta topping.) Then you toss the rest of the petit pois with crunchy sugar snap peas, mangetout (the little eat-it-all flat peas) and lemon confiture (wait for it). And still more peas! Delicate, curly tendrils of pea shoots form the salad’s base.
- Sweet-tart slices of lemon confiture
Add lemon confiture to any summer salad and your guests may pucker their lips and kiss you for your (small) effort. All you have to do is thinly slice two lemons, boil sugar, water and salt, pour it over the lemon slices and bake. Nirvana. UPDATE: Chef Matthew suggests a mandolin or sharp knife to thinly slice the lemons. Choose the knife. I haven’t tried my mandolin but our friend Sue did, with frustrating results. Thanks Sue for the feedback.
- Artistic and flavourful accoutrements
Scatter thinly sliced radishes, chives, more fresh mint leaves and a handful of edible flower petals onto the plate to add confetti-like colour and the fresh taste of summer. You’ll notice in our photo that I skipped the radish coins as we’d already served Radish Roses in Dirt as appies that evening.
There are two ingredients you may have difficulty sourcing. The recipe calls for chopped Marcona almonds, a Spanish almond that comes lightly fried in olive oil, lightly salted and heavily priced. While Marcona almonds are divine, toasted almonds will do. A little trickier to find, or find a substitute for, is black garlic, which during fermentation takes on a taste like thick, dried molasses. If it’s unavailable, maybe cut small, black olives in half, not because they in any way resemble the flavour of black garlic, but for their dramatic contrast with the intense greens of the salad.
Chef Matthew Accarrino from SPQR restaurant in San Francisco, creator of this summer salad recipe, says to serve it warm. Au contraire, I like to be drinking wine with our guests instead of fussing in the kitchen, so I’ve always served it at room temperature. But there is a caveat if you do that. To preserve the brilliant green colour of garden peas, don’t cook the mélange of petit pois, snap peas and mangetout too far in advance of eating the salad, and toss them with the lemon confiture, olive oil and salt at the last minute.
So what, you ask, did Teresa consider the best dish she cooked last year?
“Roast chicken on our new Big Green Egg barbecue,” she said, “but you know me and roast chicken.” So there’s an idea for what to serve with Matthew’s Herbed Pea Puree and Ricotta Salad with Black Garlic and Lemon Confiture while savouring the days of summer, still long and sweet.