Pea Sprouts and Shoots

pea shoots

I’ve been trying to grow peas for for years, and Philadelphia’s relatively brief Spring has always thwarted me. Not this year! I was able to grow some wonderful peas, and they are actually still producing! I doubt that they’ll make it through a hot August, so I’m picking my pea sprouts and shoots and curls now, and enjoying them while I can. 

One of the easiest ways to prepare pea shoots is to not prepare them at all – just chop them and toss them into a salad! You can also quick pickle them, throw them into a stir fry, blend them with herbs into a pesto, or toss them into a summer soup. 

Do you have other ways to enjoy pea shoots and spouts? 

Pickled Cauliflower

pickled cauliflower
It’s been hot in Philly, and very humid. It’s about this time in the summer where the idea of cooking anything is completely unappealing. I had a nice head of organic cauliflower in the refrigerator, no intention of roasting or cooking it, but I don’t really enjoy it raw. What to do? Pickle!

It’s easy to make quick, refrigerator pickles out of almost any produce. I like my pickles garlic and spicy, so I added a clove of fresh garlic and some red pepper flakes to the basic quick-pickle formula, but you could skip it, or add lemon zest, herbs, whatever floats your boat.

Start will clean, trimmed, fresh produce pre-cut into your pickle size and placed in a large, non-reactive bowl. Bring 1 cup of white vinegar to boil with 1/2 cup of water, and sugar to taste (I like my sugar content lsaladow, so I go with 1/4 cup, but you could use up to 1/2 cup). When the sugar has dissolved, pour the boiling liquid over the vegetables, which acts like a “quick cook.” When the vegetables and liquid have cooled, pour into a jar or other refrigerator-happy container and chill for at least 12 hours.

Result – quick pickles! You can serve them as a classy appetizer, or pile them onto salads, like I’ve done (to the left). Enjoy!


Fava Bean, Pea, and Jersey Tomato Salad

fava bean salad

We’ve reached that wonderful part of summer when we still have access to spring crops, but the later summer crops, like vine-ripened tomatoes, are starting to appear in farmers markets and Co-Ops. Here in Philadelphia, most of our earliest tomatoes come from New Jersey, which is famous for their juicy fruits. Combining spring and summer produce, I put together this very simple, and very delicious, salad with fresh fava beans, snap peas, tomatoes, and red onion. You could also add fresh herbs with abandoned! It’s perfect for these days when the weather really begins to heat up.

Fava Bean, Pea, and Jersey Tomato Salad

fresh fava beans, steamed in their shells, and then pealed.

sugar spap peas, ends trimmed and strings pulled

some big juicy tomatoes, of any type, vine ripened and chopped

a large red onion, finely diced

Toss the vegetables together – only the favas will need to be cooked. To avoid refrigerating the tomato (which destroys its flavor and texture) you can put this salad together ahead of time, adding the tomatoes before eating.

Whisk together a vinaigrette of good quality olive oil, white wine vinegar, sea salt and fresh ground pepper, and the zest and juice of one lemon. I like to balance my vinaigrettes 1/3 oil to 2/3 acid (the vinegar and lemon juice) but some people prefer to reverse those proportions.

Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables, add any chopped herbs that you enjoy (I suggest mint, parsley, basil, oregano, tarragon and/or sage) and toss. Let marinate at least 15 minutes before serving.

Steamed Eggplant with Miso-Tomato Sauce

steamed eggplant with miso-tomato sauce

I bought some adorable little asian eggplants, and there they lay, lingering in my fridge, waiting for me to make myself a dinner. I love asian varieties of eggplant, as they tend to be more tender, and less bitter than their larger, Italian cousins. With not much time or desire to put together a large meal for just myself, and even less desire to spend time over the stove on a sweltering 98 degree Philadelphia day, I pulled a recipe from Joe Yohan’s very fun cookbook, “Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook.” All recipes in this cookbook are vegetable-based, and intended for solo meals.  Not too many ingredients, not to much time, but a whole lot of flavor.

I altered the recipe a bit to use what I had available – some homemade Coconut Vinegar that my friend Joel gave me (and warned me to open quickly, as the yeast was still alive!) and some roasted almonds instead of peanuts. I also used the same pan and boiling water which I used to steam the eggplant for boiling the udon noodles. Less time – less mess! Altogether, about 6 minutes of total hands-on cooking, and a great, quick dinner.

A brief recipe summary, with my alterations:


Steamed Eggplant with Miso-Tomato Sauce 

One small eggplant, or a few tiny asian eggplants. Slice into rounds, salt, and steam until soft (about 20 minutes)

A nice hunk of ginger, diced, and cooked in 2 teaspoons of sesame oil until soft

2 Tbs. of miso, whisked with 1 Tbs. of vinegar (I used homemade coconut vinegar). Add the miso sauce to the ginger, stir.

A big diced tomato, or 3/4 cup organic crushed tomatoes, or tomato sauce. Added to the sauce.

1 serving of cooked udon noodles (or soba). Top the noodles with the eggplants and the sauce, and then garnish with chopped almonds (or peanuts, or roasted sesame seeds) and diced scallion.

Rose Hibiscus Lime Cooler


I love keeping jars of interesting drinks, mixers, tonics, and concoctions – especially in the summer. This ayurvedic beverage (to cool the acid and heat of Pitta constitutions) is delicious, very easy to make, and full of vitamin C. Boil 6 cups of water, add a handful of dried rose petals* and a handful of dried hibiscus flowers** and simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain, cool in a large glass container, and then add the juice (and zest, if you like) of two limes. Beautiful, delicious, and fancy, this rose hibiscus lime “cooler” is great over ice, and has such a strong flavor that you can easily cut 50/50 with seltzer water, as I did above, or use it as a summertime mixer. Garnish with fresh mint or a lime wedge for extra pizzaz!

* Did you find some local, organic rose petals? If you did, the easiest way to preserve them for the year is to dry them. I lay mine out on a sheet pan and leave them in my oven for a few  hours. If your oven is electric, instead of gas, you will need to heat it to about 100 degrees. Of course, you can always spread the petals and leave them on the counter to dry.

**You can find dried hibiscus flowers in the bulk food or herb sections of your local natural foods store or Co-Op. Alternatively, you can often find them packaged and sold with herbs in the “Mexican” or “Latino” section of grocery stores, under their Spanish name, “Rosa de Jamaica.”


Rose Petal Jam


I came home from a long Memorial Day weekend with family to find my wild rose bush blooming beautifully. The petals on those roses don’t last for long, and Philadelphia was expecting yet another big rain later that afternoon; I wanted to find a way to preserve some of these gorgeous flowers. After some internet searching, I found a few reciples for rose petal jam, a traditionally Syrian and Lebanese condiment that keeps all of the wonderful color and scent of fresh blooming roses. Because the “jam” is made with flowers and not fruit, it doesn’t have any of the natural thickening pectin of fruit, and so the finished product if more of a thick syrup than a traditional jam. I’m so excited to eat it with fresh, organic yogurt, and maybe a few herbs from the garden! I’ve included the link to the recipe I used below.


rose petal jam

These roses adjoin my home, so I know that they aren’t sprayed with chemicals or fertilizers, but if you are scavenging for your own, make sure the petals are organic.

The recipe
Wild rose petals

Sloppy Janes

Sloppy Jane.jpgIt’s Memorial Day weekend, and many of us will be attending BBQs, potlucks, and other early-summer food parties. If you’re looking for a grill or BBQ alternative, sloppy janes are an easy, and delicious option. I cook part-time at a Quaker retreat center that focuses on local, organic and plant-free menus, and we recently made these “sloppy joe” – type sandwiches with crumbled and fried tempeh instead of meat. If you’re new to tempeh, remember to boil it before cooking, otherwise it can have a bitter aftertaste. Then crumble, and fry like you would hamburger for sloppy joes. I fried the above tempeh with onions and garlic, and then added my own special sauce, a spicy vinegar-based BBQ cut with tomato sauce, some spices, extra cider vinegar, and a touch of mollasses. The fried tempeh can then be stirred right into the sauce, until you achieve your desired “sloppy” consistancy. Easy! Like traditional sloppy joes, this is also an easy dish to throw in the crock pot and take along to a BBQ or potluck.

I served sloppy janes on a crusty sourdough roll, with carmelized onions, cheddar, and plenty of mustard and hot peppers, but these sandwiches go great with any kind of traditional BBQ sandwich topping, including pickles, hot sauce, sourkraut or coleslaw – the list goes on! Add some mac & cheese and some greens and youve got a great Southern-Style BBQ meal. Enjoy your holiday weekend!