Bring a sweater if you plan a shopping visit to Manhattan Fruit Exchange located in Chelsea Market. The whole place is refrigerated. The always amiable cashier ladies who work there pad themselves with layers of clothing to withstand the conditions. Bring cash too. These small obstacles are no boundary for the kid in a candy store experience that vegetable lovers will have in this heavily stocked store. It is my go-to stop whenever I need something specific for a recipe and it never disappoints. I almost always see chef's in white jackets prowling the aisles there for last minute ingredients. Today the store had scotch bonnet peppers (mislabeled as Habaneros, which are similar but slightly different!)
I fawned my way through the store pulling myself past their vast selections of cheeses, nuts, rices, mushrooms, herbs, baby vegetables, and exotic fruit to the organic section where I fell in love with a bunch of hydroponic watercress. Next into my basket went some fresh peas in their pods.
When purchasing fresh peas be aware that one pound of pods can yield barely over a cup of peas.
I grabbed a few shallots to round out the plan in my head, a vegetable dish that would be at home during Passover week and equally welcome at the Easter table.
I believe I succeeded.
The sweet mild peas get a depth of flavor from the roasted shallots. The wilted watercress and lemon juice add a lively counterpoint.
Sweet Peas with Roasted Shallots over Wilted Watercress
2 shallots peeled and cut into quarters
1/4 cup of Olive Oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 bunch watercress, washed and dried, stems trimmed
2 cups of fresh or frozen peas
1 Tbs. lemon zest
2 Tbs. lemon Juice
Preheat oven to 425. Put shallots in a small baking dish and toss with 1 Tbs. of the Olive oil. Roast in hot oven for 15 minutes. Remove form oven and set aside to cool. In a saute pan heat the rest of the olive oil on meduim heat and add the black pepper to the oil, saute for 2 minutes. Chop up the shallots and add them to the saute pan, then add the peas, stirring carefully to coat all the peas with the oil. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes, till the peas are tender. Add the lemon zest to the peas, toss and cook one more minute.
On a serving plate arrange the watercress. Dress the watercress with the salt and the lemon juice. Pour the hot peas with the oil from the pan into the center of the watercress nest. Drizzle the hot oil over all the watercress.
First, I have to comment about Deb's pictures. Each one is more beautiful than the last. Just stunning! As for the Manhattan Fruit Exchange - I think I have to make a trip into NYC just to go to that market! I wish we had something like that near me. I could easily spend a few hours in a place like that!
Deb's recipe sounds like the perfect salad course as a starter to a larger meal. If served like this, I would love to enjoy a crisp, lively Sauvignon Blanc with it. Then I would move on to bigger wines with the main course. Something from New Zealand, or France would work perfectly. Or even a Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon blend from Bordeaux. The citrus, grassy flavors of the wine will complement the dressing flavors in the salad. I would also not hesitate to sip a Muscadet with this dish as well.
One of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs is from Kim Crawford in New Zealand. Very lively, and bright with great acidity. Lots of grassy, herbal flavors. For Muscadet, I love the Domaine de la Fruitiere Cuvee Petit M, with it's intense aromatics and wonderful minerality. Both wines can be found for around $14.99.