According to the British Web site PeaShoots.com, there are five good reasons to use the leaves of pea plants in stir-fries, salads, sandwiches, sautes and risottos. Three of them are relevant on these shores: Pea shoots are versatile, they taste great and they are nutritious, containing seven times the Vitamin C found in blueberries and four times the Vitamin A found in tomatoes.
I found delicate, sweetly flavored pea shoots at a Pennsylvania-produce farmers market last week. They won't be around much longer (a week or two). If you can't find them, use baby mache leaves for this recipe instead.
And just to close the circle, the other two reasons are: They are grown on British farms and widely available in grocery stores. Wish the latter were true in America.
- For the spice blend
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon fleur de sel
- For the tuna and salad
- 6 tablespoons canola oil or rice bran oil
- 12 ounces tuna (big-eye/sushi-grade) loin
- 2 ripe avocados
- 2 ripe mangoes
- 3 to 4 limes
- 1/4- to 1/2-inch piece peeled ginger root
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 bunch scallions
- 1 medium red bell pepper
- 8 ounces pea shoots (may substitute baby mache)
- 2 ounces pickled ginger, for garnish
For the spice blend: Combine the coriander seeds, sugar, ground ginger, peppercorns, crushed red pepper flakes and fleur de sel in a spice grinder; grind thoroughly. Transfer to a small bowl.
For the tuna and salad: Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, until the oil shimmers.
Cut the tuna into 4 equal portions, then gently press the spice onto all sides of each portion. Reserve the remaining spice blend for another use.
Add the tuna to the skillet and sear lightly on all sides, about 10 seconds per side (the tuna will not be cooked through). Transfer to a plate.
Cut the avocados in half lengthwise; discard their pits and peels. Cut the flesh lengthwise into thin slices. Peel the mangoes, then cut the flesh lengthwise into thin slices.
Squeeze the juice from the limes into a liquid measuring cup to yield 1/4 cup. Finely grate the ginger to yield 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (to taste) and add to the cup, along with the toasted sesame oil, soy sauce and remaining 4 tablespoons of oil. Whisk to form an emulsified dressing.
Trim off the root ends of the scallions; cut their white and light-green parts on a diagonal into 1/4-inch slices, then place in a medium bowl. Cut the red bell pepper (leaving the stem and seeds behind) into very thin strips to yield 1 1/4 cups; add to the bowl. Add the pea shoots, discarding any of their thicker or more fibrous stems, then add three-quarters of the dressing. Toss to coat evenly.
Arrange the avocado and mango slices in an overlapping circle at the center of each serving plate. Place a mound of the dressed vegetables at the center of each circle.
Use a sharp knife to cut the seared tuna portions into thin slices; fan 6 to 8 slices on each plate, over the dressed vegetables. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the avocado and mango slices on each plate. Garnish each portion with equal amounts of the pickled ginger. Serve immediately.
Adapted from a recipe by Jason Wilson, chef of Brix Restaurant and Wine Bar in Vancouver; as featured in "A Good Catch" (2008) by Jill Lambert. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Greystone Books: a division of D&M Publishers.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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