Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and Tarragon

Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and TarragonThe Vegetable Diaries
Spring break is here—which means it’s time to plant a veggie garden. I’m very excited. I haven’t had a true garden for many years. There have been too many other activities getting in the way of being able to take care of the plants. So, I am beyond motivated.

A few weeks ago I started my seeds. And, we had way too many cubic yards of good planting soil delivered that we used to fill our planter boxes. (I totally over-ordered.)

The waiting has been the hardest part. As a rule, you’re not supposed to plant until the temps stay above 50 degrees—and my patience has been running thin. I tend to jump the gun, usually planting a week or two too early. I showed better restraint this year. I did get the peas in the ground early though, mainly because they like the cold. But, I also chose a variety that is frost-resistant…just in case.

The recent weather has been great. But, the mornings have been a bit chilly. I am crossing my fingers that we are done with the frost. As of this post, all of my tomatoes are in the ground as well as the beans and peppers, both the bells and the spicier versions. I have been growing strawberries in my greenhouse which have recently exploded with so many berries. So, that’s some tastiness to look forward to. My peach tree is also showing significant signs of life.

I am experimenting with grow bags this year and I have to report that so far things are going well. I planted potatoes in them which are super easy to grow. And, from the looks of them, potatoes love grow bags. Grow bags are a great, inexpensive option for those who don’t have the space to have big planters. A friend of mine has had success growing tomatoes in grow bags. So, apartment dwellers take heart, you have options beyond a wine barrel or bulky planters.

With everything in the ground all that is left is the waiting. The peas will probably be the first to produce anything in great numbers. There’s nothing better than fresh peas right out of their pod. Although fresh picked corn on the cob might be a close second…and then there are the tomatoes. It’s great to have options!

Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and Tarragon Recipe
Adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli and the Food Network
Yields 4 to 6 servings

This is the ultimate salad for pea-lovers. It showcases three kinds of peas plus pea shoots—which are delicious if you have never tried them! Read more…

Peas, Pasta, and Pancetta

Peas, Pasta, and PancettaSpring Forward
Over the weekend we moved nine cubic yards (I may have over-ordered.) of vegetable potting soil into my raised beds in anticipation of having an actual vegetable garden for the first time in about 10 years. The arrival of the dirt is one of the last steps before the real magic starts.

All of the family has been involved in this project. And, surprisingly without a lot of moaning and groaning from the younger crowd. In fact, I think they are excited to have something to devote their attention to outside. The three of them even built a compost bin. Because of that, compost has been a frequent topic of conversation around the dinner table. My how times have changed!

I started seeds weeks ago and already have a thriving variety in my husband-built DIY greenhouse. There are plenty of tomatoes in a wide variety of options—from cherry to giant-sized. There are peppers both hot and sweet in regular and snack-sized. I have a large number of strawberries in anticipation of some good jam. And, the herbs are coming along nicely.

Some of my favorites are already in the ground. The carrots and potatoes have popped up in my experimental grow bags. I’ve never grown anything this way so I am cautiously optimistic. My green beans are in the ground too.

But, what I am most excited about are the peas.

I love peas but I almost never grow them because they like the cold and you have to start them early in your garden. I was on it this year because, well, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of other things going on. They’ve started growing up the trellis and every day I go out there to see how much more they have grown. There are three varieties: English, Purple, and Snow Peas for my daughter. I admit to being a bit impatient for them to start producing. But, I know we’ll get there and at that point I’ll have more than I can handle.

In the meantime I daydream about all the different ways we’re going to eat them. Three of my favorite recipes from our archives are Ragout of Fava Beans, Peas, and Asparagus with Pecorino and Crispy Prosciutto, Stir Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and Shrimp, and Spring Pea Soup with Burrata. And, then there is this gem for an easy weeknight dinner.

Peas, Pasta, and Pancetta
Yields 4 servings

This quick and easy dish makes for a great weeknight dinner. Just get some help shelling the peas. When purchasing fresh peas, remember that 1 pound of peas in their pods yields about 6 ounces. So, you will need a little over a pound and a half for this recipe. Read more…

Amy’s Easy Alfredo Sauce

Amy’s Easy Alfredo SauceTake it Easy
Over the weekend I got my first vaccination shot along with a lot of my fellow employees. This is awesome. I was concerned about how I would feel after getting the shot. The good news is I didn’t get a fever or the chills but I did get the fatigue. Luckily, I had planned a simple dinner for just this reason…

I always have some frozen pasta on hand for those random nights when you have no idea what the schedule is going to be—or if you just don’t have the energy for something more complex. It also works well when you want to ditch the kids and have date night. I’m looking forward to being able to do that again. Hopefully soon…

It has been made very clear to me that my kids aren’t huge fans of red sauce on their pasta. Don’t get me wrong, they will eat it but given the choice, nine times out of ten they will go for a pesto, lemon garlic, or, their favorite, Alfredo Sauce.

I don’t make alfredo sauce very often because no one should consume that much heavy cream and cheese on a regular basis no matter how good it tastes. As a path of least resistance on a night where I just needed to put something on a plate it was by far my best option. So, I grabbed some tortellini from the freezer, grilled up some chicken breasts to slice and put on top, and made my Easy Alfredo Sauce.

Not gonna lie, I think it was the best dinner I have made in a long time…

Amy’s Easy Alfredo Sauce Recipe
Yields 6 servings

This sauce is fantastic on any pasta you have in the pantry or fridge. You can get creative by adding veggies and different meats and seafood. Read more…

Fondue Bourguignonne

Fondue BourguignonneBoiled in Oil
Have you ever experienced hot oil hot pot? Me neither. That will be remedied this weekend. To be honest, I have done the hot broth version. But, the hot oil kinda scares me because I am that person that no matter how many precautions I take when frying something like chicken, I get burned. Not badly but enough to remember it. Maybe I should get one of those heat suits you see in the movies. You know the silver ones with the square windows in the helmets? Or maybe I should just chill out. I have been told that a time or twenty…mostly by my children.

So this weekend I will face my fears and give hot oil fondue a go. I was not aware that this was even a thing until I went fondue-crazy after Christmas. I knew about Asian hot pot, of course, but not this.

Hot oil fondue, or Fondue Bourguignonne at it is actually called, is a Swiss invention. It was the inspiration of field workers who did not have time to go back home for a meal. So, they started bringing pots of oil with them that they heated and then stuck chunks of meat in to cook. It got the name Bourguignonne from the imported French beef from Burgundy that was the most widely used.

Beef is still the most popular and most traditional meat for hot oil fondue. But, really you can use whatever meat or fish you want as well as you favorite vegetables. Just make sure the pot is stable….

There is a wealth of information on the internet about hot oil fondue if you want to dig a little deeper. This Chef’s Notes blog post was particularly helpful.

Our classic recipe is delicious. And, it can be the basis for experimenting with sauces and flavors. And, of course, a good fondue cookbook is always a good idea…

Fondue Bourguignonne Recipe
Yields 4 Servings
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse and The Food Network

Our basic recipe prepares the meat beautifully. And, the real star of this meal is the selection of dipping sauces. This is where you can get creative, and we recommend that you choose at least three favorites. The variations are infinite!

Some great recipes for sauces are Harissa Mayonnaise, Cilantro Sauce, and Fig Sauce. You can also stop by our Cheese Department and pick up a container of one of our house-made dipping sauces like Dixie’s Dipping Sauce or our Blue Cheese Dressing and Dip. Then we carry a variety of delicious BBQ sauces like Everett & Jones, and dipping sauces like the Jade Sichuan Peanut Sauce or Mekong Ginger Sauce. Read more…