Recipe Test Drive
(This entry concludes Mint Week. But just because Mint Week is drawing to a close, we shouldn’t forget the refreshing thrills we’ve shared this week. Cue Air Supply music.)
I love vegetables. I could easily be a vegetarian. Except that meat is really tasty. I believe that if we weren’t meant to eat animals, they wouldn’t be so delicious. But one of the things I love about vegetables is that self-satisfied feeling I get when I’ve eaten them, since they’re good for me. Oddly, a strip steak doesn’t inspire the same look-at-me-fighting-the-cancer-causing-carcinogens pride.
At the top of my “Vegetables I Luv" list is sugar snaps; I was smitten with their alliteration, but it’s their scrumptiously sweet crisposity that stole my heart. I suspect vegetables wouldn’t have such a bad rap with the under-fives if parents started with these babies. They don’t need a lot of tarting up in order to show off; they shine whether steamed, sautéed, or tossed oh-so-casually into pasta, risotto, stir fries, or salads.
So, given my extreme fondness for the sugar snap in all forms, I couldn’t resist last week’s recipe in New York Magazine: Pichet Ong’s Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Parmesan, Almond Puree, and Mint (of course). This Pichet Ong fellow is a pastry chef who just opened up a place of his own here in N to the Y-C, which includes some savory foods in addition to his collection of much ballyhooed desserts. I'd like to try the place, since I enjoy much ballyhooed desserts, but until then I'd get a little Pichet sampler via this recipe.
The snap pea salad itself is excellent and it doesn’t require any Advanced Culinary Skills. The sugar snaps are blanched before being tossed with a lemony vinaigrette and some chopped mint. They’re served atop an almond puree and given a light sprinkling of parmesan. The resulting salad is fresh and moreish. Since the ingredients are so simple and light, it’s easy to piggishly power through the whole salad yourself, guilt-free (I do not recommend doing this, as the husband will be annoyed and you will have to watch a lot of soccer to make up for the indiscretion.)
The almond puree sounds more high-falutin’ than it actually is; simmer sliced almonds in milk until they’re soft, whiz it all around with a hand blender, and Bob’s your uncle. The puree is easy to make and totally superfluous. The flavor is very subtle, and by subtle I mean completely bland. At first, I thought maybe I’d futz around with the puree for a dinner party, since “almond puree” sounds so very professional-chef, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was gilding the proverbial lily. The sugar snap salad doesn’t need a puree. It doesn’t elevate it or add layers of flavor. It just gives you more utensils to wash. So, unless Pichet plans on popping over to Best Bite Manor to do the dishes, I'm chucking the puree.
A puree-free version of the salad easily earns a place in the weeknight rotation; it’s an appealing celebration of springtime goodness, the kind of thing that makes you think these vegetarian people might not be so off the mark. But I can’t shake the feeling that it might just be a teensy-weensy bit better with some bacon. Just like everything else.