Thursday, May 26, 2016

Featured Vegetables of the Week: Pea Vine & Hon Tsai Tai

by Andrea Yoder

This week’s box features two greens that we’ve specifically selected to fill our spring slots for interesting & unique vegetables that are ready to go early in the season, ahead of other crops that require more time to mature. They bridge the gap between overwintered and perennial greens and other spring planted vegetables.

Pea Vine in the field.

 Pea Vine is an immature pea plant that is harvested before the vine starts to develop blossoms. It has a mild, sweet pea flavor and reminds us that sugar snap and snow peas are just around the corner! Pea vine can be eaten raw in salads or can be lightly sautéed, wilted into soups and sauces or stir-fried. While the tendrils and leaves are tender, the main stem can sometimes get tough depending on how mature the plant is at harvest. One way to handle this vegetable is to pick the tender leaves and tendrils off the main stem, but the problem with this is that there is a lot of flavor and value in the main stem! I must admit that I don’t like to spend a lot of time sorting through a bunch of pea vine and I prefer to use as much of the bunch as I can. Thus, I like to use pea vine in ways that allow me to blend it in a blender or food processor to make things such as pea vine pesto or pea vine cream cheese (both recipes may be found in the searchable recipe database on our website). The other way I like to use pea vine is in sauces, soups or broth. I generally chop the pea vine into smaller pieces and add it to hot broth or a sauce base. Let the pea vine simmer briefly, you don’t want to overcook this vegetable or you’ll lose the bright pea flavor. Once you’ve infused the flavor of the pea vine into the sauce or broth, you can strain it out to remove it. If you’d like to extract just a little more flavor, blend the mixture before straining it.
Hon Tsai Tai is a Chinese green.  It is related to bok choi and is in a group of plants often called the “flowering brassicas.”  Hon Tsai Tai has purple stems and green leaves. We intentionally wait to
Hon Tsai Tai in the field.
harvest this vegetable until it starts to produce a flower stalk with tender yellow flowers. The stems, flowers and green leaves are all edible. Sometimes the lower portion of the stem can be a little tough.  Just discard the lower portion of the bunch—usually no more than an inch or so, and use the remainder.
Hon Tsai Tai has a mild mustard flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked. It is delicious in stir-fries or lightly steamed, but also makes a stunning addition to raw salads. The greens are very tender, so they only need to be cooked briefly, for no more than a couple of minutes at most. A common preparation in Chinese cuisine is to quickly stir fry Hon Tsai Tai with garlic, onions and ginger, then add oyster sauce. Store Hon Tsai Tai loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until ready for use.

Hon Tsai Tai Salad “To Go” with Miso Honey Dressing

Yield:  2 large salads or 4 small salads

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil plus an additional ½ cup
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp white miso
4 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
½ cup water

**Dressing recipe borrowed from Heidi Swanson’s 
on-line store website,**

3-4 cups thinly sliced hon tsai tai, stems and leaves 
½ to ¾ cup French breakfast or red radishes, small diced
¾ to 1 cup thinly sliced scallions 
½ cup thinly sliced asparagus
1 cup “protein” of your choice (chickpeas, diced cooked chicken 
   or salmon, thinly sliced grilled steak, etc)
4 to 6 Tbsp seeds of your choice (pumpkin seeds, sunflower 
    seeds, sesame seeds, etc)
2 quart sized canning jars or 4 pint sized canning jars, with lids

  1. First, prepare the dressing.  In a small saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp of oil over medium heat.  Stir in the garlic and gently sauté for a minute or so.  Whisk in the honey, miso and vinegar.  Simmer for a minute or two, and remove from heat.  Whisk in the sesame oil and then the water, gradually, to taste.  Let cool a bit, and then put the dressing in a small jar.  Refrigerate until you are ready to eat the salad.
  2. Once all of the vegetables are prepared, assemble the salad in the jars (instructions to follow are for filling 2 quart jars).  Start by putting a handful of hon tsai tai in the bottom of each jar.  Next add about a quarter of the radishes and scallions to each jar.  Add a quarter of the “protein” of your choosing and then top it off with half of the asparagus in each jar.  Repeat the layers to bring the contents of the jar to the top.  Put a lid on the jar and refrigerate until you are ready to eat the salad.
  3. When you are ready to eat the salad, add a few tablespoons of dressing to each jar.  Put the lid back on the jar and shake the salad to distribute the dressing throughout the jar.  Empty the salad into a bowl and garnish with seeds.
This is an easy way to make a salad in advance and conveniently package it for transport.  Take it to work with you for lunch, pack it for a picnic, or just make it in advance and keep it in the refrigerator so it’s ready for you to enjoy for dinner on a busy evening.

Spring Noodle Bowl with Pea Vine Broth
by Chef Andrea Yoder

Yield: 2 servings
1 quart chicken broth
4 oz pea vine (1 bunch)
4 oz cooked pasta, at room temperature                                                                                                     (choose something that is long such as soba noodles, angel hair pasta, fettucine, etc)
1 cup green onion tops, thinly sliced
¼ cup green garlic, minced
½ cup asparagus, sliced very thinly
Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, to garnish
Fresh lemon juice, to taste

  1. Put the chicken broth in a saucepot and heat it to a gentle simmer over medium heat.  Roughly chop the pea vine. When the broth is at a gentle simmer, add the pea vine and simmer for 2-3 minutes.  
  2. After 2-3 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and let rest for a few minutes.  Carefully transfer the broth with the pea vine to a blender.  You may need to blend the broth in two batches if you have a small blender container.  Blend the broth until the pea vine is blended into very small pieces.  Strain the broth to remove the solids and put the broth back in the saucepot.  Return the broth to a gentle simmer over medium heat.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper.  
  3. When the broth is ready, prepare two medium soup bowls for serving.  Divide the pasta evenly between the two bowls. Top each bowl of pasta with the green onions, green garlic and asparagus, dividing each ingredient evenly between the two bowls. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on top of each bowl.  
  4. Ladle about 12 ounces of hot broth over each bowl of noodles.  Garnish as desired with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

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