Category Archives: peas

Salsa Verde Pasta & Our Talladega Nights

A close cousin of French persillade, Argentinean chimichurri and German grune sosse, the classic Italian salsa verde (from Lombardia region) green sauce is a simple combination of herbs, greens, garlic, anchovies and olive oil.  It’s a wonderful condiment (enhanced with nuts and Parmesan, it turns into a savory pesto) to make your pasta extraordinary in a wink and/or to jazz up the flavor of the freshly barbequed meat, poultry, fish, pizza, salad dressing, etc. Salsa Verde is real must-have condiment for me at any given time or meal, as it is the way to almost anyone’s heart when applied to dishes.
 Lately we’ve been eating pasta a lot (at least three times in a last 10 days, wow) – all of them with green color hues of Salsa Verde (parsley, basil, arugula, oregano), and/or with quickly sautéed greens to praise the summer bounties like spinach, broccolini, rapini, green peas, asparagus, etc. Anchovies, nuts, Parmesan or Pecorino ingredients add tons of umami (see my previous post) to the dish with which they can’t get any better, or bore you, for that matter. In fact, I’m getting hungry for Pasta Verde again by just writing this… 
With days passing at a cosmic speed we couldn’t be any busier this summer: first Montreal’s Grand Prix; then the World Cup; then national holidays, then The Jazz Festival, now Week-ends du Monde and the International Fireworks Festival  – one can barely find time to catch up with all this hurly-burly hot summertime commotion.  So many things to do, places to go, things to watch or discuss over the supper, it’s overwhelming.
Certainly, the trap of the fast food dinner is always at the corner during such times, just waiting to strike. It’s so easy to reach for the plastic and call for Domino’s or St-Hubert or Chinese delivery and then happily re-enact the hilarious Talladega Nights movie ‘supper’episode
I totally don’t mind to have the Talladega night-style dinner from time to time. The problem is: a few dinners like that and the heartburn knocks in, the headache knocks on, the tummy knocks up and the mojo knocks off. We don’t want that. Pasta might not be the leanest or the most dietetic answer to the summer hustle, but it is a much healthier alternative to the junk. You can have totally wonderful wholesome and comforting Salsa Verde pasta dinner packed with good-for-you nutrients within less than 30 minutes. 
A good Salsa Verde is all about the fresh and quality ingredients: the freshest herbs available and the quality olive oil deliver the best result. Once you have a batch in your fridge sky is the limit: you can apply it to or transform it into so many things. The other day we were making BBQ dinner; I used it as a base adding more olive oil, freshly chopped parsley, a dash of fresh thyme, a juice of one lemon, few minced garlic cloves and a pinch of chili flakes to make a great Chimichuri sauce for grilled meat and veggies. It is really one worthy jar of greens with hundreds of dish possibilities. Try it for yourself and see where it takes you next. And it takes 5 minutes to prepare. 
The Salsa Verde pasta dish is a breeze to put together (a friend of mine asked me to put the measuring in ml, which I did below). Cook the pasta of your choice to al dente, drain, toss with salsa and its ready to be served seasoned with freshly ground pepper, drizzled olive oil and garnished with shaved Pecorino or Parmesan :
I like to also mix it with some sautéed greens (see the next few images) in addition. 
FYI, tubular pasta is especially good to absorb the sauce…Nothing however is more comforting to me than orzo or linguini…
Rapini, asparagus and fresh peas are my favorite inclusions for the sautéed greens…
Few simple steps while your pasta is cooking. When pasta is al dente, drain and add to the skillet to dry it  and mix with the green goodness.
And now it’s time to toss with salsa verde:
It’s a to-die-for healthy and comforting vegetarian dish, which I can devour hot, warm or cold anytime, anywhere – a perfect swoon.
 Enjoy the plate of dolce vita!
For Salsa Verde Sauce
2 cups (500 ml) fresh green herbs of your choice (parsley, basil, chives, arugula, oregano, marjoram, mint) mixed in any proportion*
2-3 cloves garlic
¼ cup (50ml) pine nuts or slivered almonds
3 anchovy fillets (optional)
2 tbsp (30ml) capers, drained
½ (100 ml) cup quality olive oil
¼ cup (75 ml) cup lemon juice or white wine vinegar
½ cup Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (optional)
1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
½ tsp sea salt
 *Note: If wish be, pre-saute the greens with olive oil for 1-2 minutes and cool before blending for a milder taste and longer shelf life
For Pasta Verde
1 lb (500g) pasta of your choice
1 cup (75 ml) Salsa Verde  sauce (see above)
Freshly ground pepper
For Sautéed Greens (optional)
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
2 cups fresh rapini, spinach, broccolini, Swiss chard or collard greens coarsely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of chili flakes
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp lemon zest
Sea salt to taste
Combine all Salsa Verde ingredients in a food processor or blender and give it a few quick 6-8 pulses until roughly chopped into a coarse puree.  Reserve what you need for the dish and keep the rest refrigerated in an air tight container for up to 6 days.
Optional sautéed greens: preheat the skillet to medium-high and add chili and garlic to infuse the oil for 1 minute. Add green peas and coarsely chopped greens and two tablespoons of water. Increase the heat to high and wilt the greens over the high heat during 1-2 minutes. Transfer to the bowl and put aside.
Cook pasta according to the package instructions in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain.
Place lightly oiled skillet over medium heat. Add pasta and cook tossing for 1 minute until it becomes dry. Transfer to large warmed serving bowl. Toss with Salsa Verde sauce and some extra sautéed greens. Drizzle with some extra olive oil, season with freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately garnished with shaved Parmesan or Pecorino and a dash of fresh mint.

Grandma’s Whole Pea Soup on Cold Wintry Night

It’s been cold, really cold in the last few days. A sudden strike of an obsession with grandma’s soup is not unusual during such times. Along with a distant memory of a grand granny cooking a pea soup in a giant cauldron for the family of 60+… so warm and comforting.
What else can be on your mind while driving home with a growling belly in this biting frost and with more than 50 shades of gray around? Perhaps a stew or a bowl of steamy mashed potatoes? Chances are though this rustic soup is not only among my infinite ramblings this evening…
I bought a $1.50 pack (1lb or 454 gr) of organic whole peas on our last visit to the farm because I knew the time for this soup was coming.  There was a recipe of Soupe aux pois de grand-mère labeled to it, which I am presenting to you, although, hugely modified. The recipe asks to add 341 grams of canned corn at the end, which I’m not so sure about, but it might be an idea to thicken some liquid vegetarian version.  For the vegetarian version I suggest you use a good vegetarian stock and give the chopped veggies a quick fry-stir with a tablespoon of ghee or vegetable oil before adding them to the pot. You can find the whole peas in most of the supermarkets in Quebec, or order them on-line. The farm-bought, of course would always be cheaper and fool-proof organic.
NOTE: Just like beans, whole peas require soaking in the water for 8 hours or overnight before cooking. But if you are not very legume-sensitive (or, in other word, reactive), feel free to use a rapid method of boiling peas for 2 minutes, letting them sit for an hour and then cook as instructed … which still requires a bit of time, so I suggest you do your math when ready to cook this soup.
Peas are usually coming into the recipes in a split form, but this French Canadian classic is made with whole peas and is traditionally a part of Cabaneà sucre (sugar shack) menu Québecois are so famous for.  Which brings me to the question of the non-vegetarian version based on beef or veal stock, with the addition of some ham or pork sausage and, of course, the salted pork lard (LOTS OF IT)… The recipe stipulated ½ pound of lard, but I did not use any because I had something better – a home-smoked and braised hock… 
So if you will excuse me, my dear fellow-vegetarians, I have to include this part to keep the lyrics. I really wanted to step my game up in the carnivore version of this soup, so what was supposed to be a simple salted lard and/or ham in an old-fashioned version (don’t worry, I keep the classics in the recipe below) of the whole pea soup, became a real German-style state of the art smoked pig knuckle slowly braised in the oven. The richness of it combined with slow-cooked peas is truly a heavenly combination.

Using braised knuckle requires some extra prep. Last week-end we had a bit of sun, which felt almost like an approaching Cabane à sucre time (or perhaps the Imbolc celebration would be closer). We made a fire outside for a little alfresco break from our 6-months long winter strong conditions. I decided to use this occasion to smoke whatever I could for the future culinary applications, including a few pork knuckles. It’s really no-brainer: you just smoke the knuckle over the fire on all sides (torch is OK in your own kitchen on a day like today). Then cool it and clean it with the brush under the cold running water and it’s ready to be braised for 2 hours with a few cloves of garlic, onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and a bit of liquid (such as water, broth, wine, or, my favorite, mix of water and apple cider vinegar).

Ta-dah, few hours later you have a great addition to a soup or stew, or can start eating it as schweinshaxe Bavarian style. Add sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and beer and you will be in a German heaven. In my case though it makes a great addition to the rustic pea soup when de-boned and minced. Please do not discard the skin from the cooked hock, because it actually is a great swap for salted lard and a major flavor booster. Add it to the soup 15 minutes into the end of cooking.

You can prepare the whole pea soup up to three days ahead and might notice that it will taste better with time. Next day it will be much thicker and velvety: the flavours will be married, the smokiness will shine through more prominently.  Serve it with baguette crostini, garlic croutons and aged cheese on a side garnished with a bit of fresh parsley if you wish.

It’s not for no reason that this soup is one of the homiest and most comforting dishes in the French Canadian menu: it’s a humble delight to come home to on an Arctic winter night.


One year ago: Perfect Green Salad Vinaigrette


Yields 6-8 servings
1 lb or 454 gr dried yellow whole peas
½ lb salted lard (optional)
1 ham hock (or 1 smoked and braised pig knuckle)
9 cups of water (or 10 cups of vegetarian broth for vegetarian version)
3 cups of veal or beef brown stock (or 2 cups cream of corn for vegetarian version)
1 large onion, chopped
2 small carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dried savory
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
* 1 can (341 gr) cream of corn (optional for vegetarian version)
Cover the peas with water and soak overnight or for 8 hours. Drain. Alternatively, you can skip soaking by rinsing whole peas in cold water, then placing them with the rest of the ingredients (except for the cream of corn in the vegetarian version) in a pot, bringing to boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside for 1 hour.
Bring the soup back to the boiling point, lower the heat and let it simmer covered for 1 hour or until the peas become tender.  Remove the hock, let it cool, then de-bone, mince the meat and return into the pot for the final 15 minutes of simmering. For vegetarian version, add cream of corn 15 minutes before the end of cooking.
Check the seasoning. Remove the pot from heat. Discard the bay leaves. Optionally, you can now puree the soup in a blender to the consistency you like. Taste again for salt and pepper and serve garnished with fresh parsley, chives, or garlic croutons.