Anywhere and Everywhere

easter feast part two: spring pea salad

This recipe is from Food Network Magazine.  I’ve adapted it slightly. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon it, probably at my friend Jamie’s house because she always has Food Network Magazine.  I’m surprised I even tried it because I’m not always wild about peas of any variety and my husband certainly is not.  It’s strange, Dirk is a pretty open guy when it comes to food.  He actually prides himself on it.  But he has this strange prejudice when it comes to springtime veggies.  That being said, we both love this recipe.  Can you believe it?  I will definitely admit that these ingredients sound a little suspect but the combination is really beautiful. Cook the peas to just tender. Don’t overcook!  The shallots are salty and sweet, the walnuts roasted and crunchy and the dates add even more sweetness to round the salad out perfectly.  What better addition to your Easter dinner than a recipe that is all about the renewing of the growing season? And dates? That’s totally a biblical food. Right?

One note: Unless you are a die-hard pea fan, only use the English peas if you can find fresh.  If you’re like me and you’re quite suspicious of peas you won’t want to use frozen. And I can’t even talk about canned.  Fresh peas that you shell yourself are an entirely different story.  If you find those at the store, definitely add them. I typically can’t find fresh peas, so I leave the English peas out.  I usually increase the amount of snow peas but 1/2-1 cup.

Kosher or coarse sea salt

2 cups shelled fresh English peas or thawed frozen peas (about 10 ounces)

2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut into 2-3 pieces 

1 cup snow peas, trimmed and thinly sliced 

2 tablespoon walnut oil

1 medium shallot, thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup chopped pitted dates

⅛- ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper

 

snap peas
Thinly sliced snow peas. I used more than a cup because I didn’t use any English Peas.

 

About the walnut oil…you can definitely sub extra virgin olive oil and it will taste great.  But really, it’s worth looking for the walnut oil. It adds amazing flavor and it an oil that can stand up to some heat so you can use the rest of the bottle for cooking or in salads, no problem.  I used this brand:

I found it at Marczyk’s Fine Foods in Denver and I’m sure they would have it at Whole Foods too. Or order it here.

method:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl with ice water. If using fresh English peas, add to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 1 minute. Add the snap peas and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes, then add the snow peas and cook 30 seconds. Drain the peas and plunge into the ice water to cool.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the walnut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the walnuts, dates, and cayenne and cook until the nuts are slightly toasted, about 1 more minute.

Drain the peas, shaking off the excess water, then add to the skillet (if using frozen peas, add them here). Add some salt and cook, stirring, until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the walnut oil and toss. Add more salt and some freshly cracked pepper to taste.

Africa

The best eggplant salad. Ever. It’s so good!

I did my first ever cooking pilot last year and featured this recipe.  This silly video shows what a natural I was in front of the camera.  I swear I warmed up! And that is my kitchen and the bearded man is my husband.

I bought my first African cookbook, Tastes of Africa, at our local bookstore, The Tattered Cover.  I was so excited to go home and read it from cover to cover as any obsessed foodie would.  Starting out, I made some of the more traditional stews and they were delicious and wonderful.  After tackling the somewhat familiar, I branched out to trying some of the salads.  And there it was “Aubergine” salad.  What was an aubergine?  I had a feeling it was eggplant (it is).  Growing up in Iowa in the 80’s and 90’s, we never had eggplant.  My mom cooked with plenty of vegetables and my grandmother had a large garden, but somehow, no eggplant.  As an adult cook, I would dabble a bit with eggplant but it always seemed like a flavorless sponge.  Well, it’s kind of true! It is a bit flavorless and it is a sponge. But! there was a secret I learned from the cookbook’s author, Justice Kamanga.  You have to dehydrate the eggplant with salt and soak up all the bitter juice and then RE-hydrate the eggplant with olive oil.  I later acted really cool about this technique, bragging about it wherever I went.  It turns out, many “in the know” cooks already knew about this technique.  I was just behind on my eggplant game. Okay, let’s get to it!  If you’re like me you often scroll through all these words to get to the RECIPE! One more thing.  Tastes of Africa, by Justice Kamanga remain my favorite multi-country African cookbook.  It really started my enthusiasm for the cuisine that remains today.

eggplant salad

serves up to 8 people as a side dish

  • 4 large eggplants
  • 4Tbsp. sea salt
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. capers
  • ciabatta bread for serving (optional)
  • Greek yogurt for serving (optional)
  • cayenne pepper
  • dressing:
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • a pinch of sugar
  • (good)salt and pepper

 

  1. Slice the eggplant into about 1/2 inch rounds.
  2. Sprinkle each slice with sea salt and then leave to stand for 30-60 min.  
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Take a clean dish cloth and press onto each of the eggplant slices getting up all the brown liquid.
  5.  Transfer them to a roasting pan and drizzle with a little olive oil then toss. Let the olive oil really be absorbed by the spongy eggplant.  
  6. Ensure that they’re lying in a single layer then place them in the 400 degree oven until soft, but still firm. You want them to be golden brown, still soft, not crispy!
  7. After they are cool enough to handle, slice the eggplant into bite-sized pieces.  
  8. Transfer the eggplant pieces to a bowl and add the tomatoes, onion, and capers.  
  9. Mix all the dressing ingredients together and pour over the eggplant salad.  Toss gently.  
  10. Serve on thick slices of toasted ciabatta bread topped with 1 Tbsp. of yogurt each.  
  11. Sprinkle with the cayenne pepper and serve immediately.  Serves 4-6.
The director, Chris, getting way too excited about eating eggplant salad. Although, it really is that good!