On a recent trip to the farmers market, I picked up some pea shoots. I wasn’t really sure what I would end up doing with them, nor did it really matter at the time. It was all part of the fun of picking up as-yet-unexplored-by-me produce, and it’s what I look forward to every Saturday morning when I allow myself this $5 or less, single-item indulgence that often widens my culinary repertoire. And this particular Saturday, I was delighted to find a new bunch of greens to play with.
Although I’m generally not a fan of de-podded peas, I love snap peas in salads and stir fries. After tasting the pea shoots, I found their slightly crunchy texture and mildly sweet flavor more reminiscent of snap peas (thank goodness!). Having also picked up a daikon radish (regular radishes will also do) because the pea shoots cost only half of my $5 limit on indulgent farmers market purchases, I added that crunchy, slightly spicy root to the mix, and soon decided to use these veggies in their freshest, most flavorful form: raw.
Having embarked on this salad adventure, I wanted to add something healthy but with a little more heft, so I grated some raw sweet potato. That may sound weird if you haven’t tried raw sweet potato before, but trust me and the variety of raw root vegetable salads and slaws out there. As someone with major texture issues, I promise this one isn’t weird. But if you truly aren’t ready for that, try carrots instead to preserve the same beautiful orange color and a similarly sweet flavor.
I also added some cucumber and chopped cilantro – and while I find that cucumber contributes a lightness that’s wonderful in most salads and I think you can never go wrong with a small addition of fresh herbs, they are aren’t essential to this pea shoot and root vegetable-centric salad if you don’t have them on hand.
Finally: the dressing. This one is unique because it starts with a paste made of raw peanuts and sesame seeds, which you can churn up in a food processor in just a minute or two. No added oils are required, as the peanuts and sesame seeds themselves are rich with healthy fats that, once pureed into a paste, add a ton of flavor and creaminess to the dressing. Add a few splashes of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, a couple spoonfuls of brown sugar, a bit of fresh ginger, and a dab or two of Asian chili-garlic sauce, and the paste becomes a spicily sweet sesame-peanut dressing that turns salads into healthy addictions (and would probably also taste amazing spooned over roasted sweet potatoes).
Pea Shoots, Daikon, and Grated Sweet Potato Salad
Serves 2 to 4
Pea shoots are in season right now, but if you can’t find them, a combination of mixed greens or baby spinach and chopped snap peas will do.
1 bunch of pea shoots, chopped (about 6 c.)
1/2 c. daikon, coarsely grated (may substitute other radish)
1 c. raw sweet potato, peeled and coarsely grated (may substitute carrot)
3/4 c. cucumber, thinly sliced (matchstick sized)
3 green onions, thinly sliced (whites and greens)
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
Spicy Sesame Peanut Dressing (recipe below)
chopped peanuts for garnish
Toss pea shoots, daikon, sweet potato, cucumber, green onions, and cilantro in a large bowl. Pour in Spicy Sesame Peanut Dressing, and toss to coat the vegetables. Top with chopped peanuts, and serve chilled or at room temperature.
Spicy Sesame Peanut Dressing
Makes 1-2 cups, depending on how much you thin out the dressing
1/4 c. raw peanuts
1 Tbsp. raw sesame seeds
1/2 c. water, plus more to thin dressing
3 Tbsp. soy sauce (vegan)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. ginger, minced
1-2 Tbsp. spicy Chili Garlic Sauce
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
In food processor, pulse peanuts and sesame seeds 6 times for 1 to 2 seconds each until crumbly. Add water, and blend until smooth paste forms. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, chili garlic sauce, and rice wine vinegar, and blend until smooth. Add more water 2 Tbsp. at a time to thin dressing to desired consistency. Dressing will keep in airtight refrigerated container for up to 5 days.