Tuscan Peas and Leek Shoots: Spring Garden

All by myself for a week in the Tuscan farmhouse kitchen, I decided to make a nice mess of peas Roman style, which you do by gently stewing some chopped onion and chopped guanciale or pancetta in olive oil, then stirring in the peas and briskly poaching them in a small amount of stock or plain water—just enough to come to the tops of the peas. (You can do this with tender young fava beans too, another great Roman dish.)

But I was stopped in my tracks at my local farm market
by the sight of these things. What are they?

“They’re the tops of leeks,” Franca’s mother explained. “You nip them off to encourage the stalks to grow tall and fat. Just discard the flower part and cut the stems in pieces.”

Perfect with green peas, I thought, and, in the spirit of waste not/want not that is so prevalent these days, I decided also to cook the flower part, first peeling off the papery onion-skin outsides.

I did add a bit of chopped onion to the mix, but left out the pancetta (only because I didn’t have it and it’s a half hour’s drive to town for more), assuring myself I’d get more fresh pea flavor that way. You can see the pale green flower buds in this photo.

And it was delicious—a pound of peas, once shucked, made about 1 ½ cups, just enough for a greedy person’s supper. I had a half cup of chopped leek tops and maybe a quarter cup of slivered onions from Tropea, a town down on the Calabrian coast that’s famous for sweet, torpedo-shaped red onions. I added a quarter cup of olive oil to the pan and stirred the alliums in the fat for about 10 minutes, just until they were soft but not brown. Then I added the peas and a cup of boiling water, salt and pepper but nothing else (a few mint leaves would have been nice, if I’d had them), cooking the peas, uncovered, until they were tender.

Just as the peas were done (they cooked in about 10 minutes of fast boiling) and were sitting in a few spoonsful of rather syrupy liquid, a thunderstorm came crashing down out of the northwest and knocked out the electricity. So as the skies darkened, I had my peas by candlelight with a slice of good bread to sop up the liquid. A deeply satisfying, thoroughly nourishing, totally seasonal supper.

It occurred to me that, lacking the tops of leeks, you could use garlic scapes in this recipe. And if you feel you need a more formal instruction, you can find it in my New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook on pages 318-31 https://www.amazon.com/New-Mediterranean-Diet-Cookbook-Alternative/dp/0553385097/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1527001785&sr=1-4


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    1 Comment

  • Reply Karen May 22, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    Mmmmmm….lovely!

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