Shoots and Shiitake Sauté

Photos by  Zachary Cross

Photos by Zachary Cross

Often on the blog I post other people’s recipes that I’ve found online or in cookbooks or elsewhere. Sometimes they’re tweaked and sometimes as they are written. I do come up with my own recipes once in a while, whether on purpose on by accident.

This recipe was definitely a happy accident. One evening I had market ingredients I wanted to use, looked at a cookbook or two, and just threw a few things together. At supper Jeffrey asked, “is this the blog recipe this week?” I said no and he said it should be. All right, then! I made sure to write down what I did right away so I could remember it.

The ingredients I especially wanted to use that night were shiitakes and pea shoots. In the past I’ve had pea shoots that were trimmings off of regular pea vines, but these were very young plants grown in soil. Pea sprouts grown in water are also available. They all taste like peas. I’ve found that pea trimmings from the vines get woody very quickly, so use thosewithin a day or two of market. The shoots grown in soil, otherwise known as microgreens, were tender and tasty after quite some time in the fridge. Although, like most vegetables, their nutritional value is highest right after cutting, you can be certain they will be usable for longer.

Microgreens are fairly new on the food scene. I see recipes online going back as far as 2009 but presenting them as something new. They are grown both for their taste, much like the mature plant in a compact and tender form, and for their nutritional value, up to 40 times greater than mature plants. The definition of microgreen is a pretty loose one. They’re older than a sprout and have at least their first set of true leaves. They’re usually going to be smaller, though, than the greens sold as baby greens. A more complete description can be found here.

Because the shoots have a pea flavor, I looked in my cookbooks at pea recipes - I don’t think any of my cookbooks have pea shoot recipes. In Vegetables Every Day I came across a recipe for a side dish called Peas with Onion and Mushrooms. That gave me the basic idea to saute an onion and the shiitakes and add a fresh herb garnish at the end. From there I decided to make it more of a main dish, adding tempeh, and making the flavors more Asian with fresh ginger and cilantro.

Although the flavor combination in this recipe is excellent, it’s still a flexible recipe. For instance, tempeh is not currently a product available locally (The Farm was growing soybeans and making tempeh back in the 70s and 80s, at least, so it is possible!) Chicken breast is a logical substitute, and would be prepared similarly, though I have not tried this variation yet. I did try substituting Pacific cod from Wild Alaskan Seafood. I cut it into small chunks and added it at the very end instead of the beginning. It only needs to be cooked briefly, until it begins to get opaque. I’ve also substituted green garlic and leeks for the onion. Any available green can be substituted for the chard. A quick-cooking green such as any baby green or any spinach will cook the same as chard. A tougher green should be parboiled so it can be ready quickly in the sauté.

The basic flavor should be pretty consistent whichever variation you choose. Sometimes I like to use soy sauce or one ofSan-J’s gluten-free sauces in a sauté or stir fry but for this recipe I chose to leave them out. I like the way the flavors of the ingredients shine through: alliums, ginger, and the nuttiness of the oils, plus the mushrooms and pea flavors.

Serve your veggies with rice, bread, squash, or sweet potato. The herb garnish at the end adds even more green color, crunchy texture, and complementary flavors. Use these to taste, but I enjoyed a lot of them: two kinds of chives and parsley as well as the cilantro.

Shoots and Shiitake Sauté

1-2 packages of tempeh (8 oz each)
1 medium onion, cut in half then sliced thin
8 oz shiitakes, stemmed and sliced (about 6 oz after stemming)
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
Leaves from 1 bunch of chard, cut in ribbons, then chopped
~2 cups of pea shoots
Palm and sesame oils, or other fat for cooking
Chives, parsley, and cilantro, chopped, to taste

  1. Slice tempeh in ¼ inch crosswise strips. Brown in a combination of sesame and palm oils. Season with salt and set aside.

  2. Sauté the onion in a combination of sesame and palm oils until wilted and beginning to brown.

  3. Add the shiitakes and continue sautéing until the mushrooms are tender.

  4. Add the ginger, stir, and add the chard. Stir, then cover and steam to desired doneness.

  5. Add the pea shoots, parsley, chives, and generous amounts of cilantro. Stir well, add more herbs as a garnish, and serve immediately.

    Variations:
    -Use 2-4 chicken breasts, cut in chunks or strips. Cook like the tempeh, in the pan with a little oil and salt until done, set aside. 
    -Use about 1 pound of cod in place of the tempeh. Cut in desired serving-sized pieces but wait until the vegetables are done to add the cod. Cook until opaque except in the center. It will continue to cook off the heat. 
    -Use a different allium in place of or in addition to the onion: leeks, green garlic, garlic scapes, green onions/scallions, shallots. One or a combination. 
    -Use peas in place of the pea shoots: shelled, snow, or sugar snap. 
    -Use a different microgreen in place of the pea shoots.

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