Asparagus, Pea Shoot and Pea Salad

Ever since I began the ACD last year, I’ve been on a mission to find restaurants that can accommodate my dietary restrictions.  Luckily, I’ve discovered two or three, and the HH and I tend to frequent those establishments regularly.  On our recent vacation in Florida, I was elated to discover Wish, where I enjoyed a tasting menu of four vegetarian dishes.


Then, for our anniversary last week (and thanks again for all the good wishes!), the HH and I had our hearts set on our favorite special occasion place.  Eating at this place is like splurging on that adorable Christian Lacroix jacket at Holt’s–you really can’t afford to do it very often (in fact, we do it only once a year–usually on our anniversary), but boy, is it worth it.

At least, until this last time.

Normally at our annual visit, I enjoy the portobello “steak” (marinated mushroom), but since fungi are a no-no on the ACD, I called in advance to ensure there would be something I could eat. And since the HH and I are such long-standing patrons there, I thought the place would be willing to accommodate.  “No problem,” the lovely hostess told me on the phone.  “See you Saturday evening.”

First course: baby spinach salad with green apple and pine nuts.  So far, so good.

Then came the main course.  I was given (with impeccable service, mind you) a slab of grilled sweet potato draped over a mix of grilled chickpeas, puy lentils, sautéed, spinach and white asparagus.  (Looks eerily like a piece of salmon, doesn’t it?)


To be fair, the sides–as usual–were astoundingly good. If I could figure out how to reproduce those grilled chickpeas, I could die a happy woman.  But, um, excuse me? A piece of sweet potato as a main dish? This is the best they could come up with?

LOSE.  (Or, to use twitter parlance, FAIL.  And Epic Fail, at that.)

True, they almost redeemed themselves with our desserts–mine, a simple bowl of fresh berries.  But behold the presentation:

Nevertheless, we are seriously re-thinking whether or not we’ll continue to patronize the place.

With cooking, as well, there are the “let’s-pop-the-cork,” “you-just-won-the-lottery,” “you-came-first-in-your-class,” “you-mean-the-size-eight-is-too-big?” types of successes, as well as the brilliant failures.  To wit, a recent comment from Michelle made my day; she asked about how I create recipes.  The comment concluded this way: “Always love your recipes, Ricki! You must spend a lot of time developing them? I’m curious!”  Of course, that got me thinking about my process of recipe creation.

Like most cooks, I am often inspired by something I ate somewhere else or something I read about, and begin there.  Other times, I have a need to use up some ingredients, and the recipe is born of necessity.  Or, perhaps, I just want to challenge myself to see what I can come up with.

Depending on the recipe, I do, indeed, sometimes spend a lot of time creating it.  My soy-free whipped cream, for instance, was tested about 50 times before it hit my cookbook.  Sometimes I chronicle the various iterations of a recipe, as when I wrote about chocolate pecan pie.  Other times, I hit on a recipe on the first go-round (though that is a rarity). In other words, you win some and you lose some.  (Happily, the difference between recipe creation and dating is that you can throw away the loser recipes).

In a recent issue of the McDougall newsletter, I noticed a reworked recipe for this salad from Martha Stewart’s website. This is my own remake of the remake (sort of like Canadian Idol–you know, a poor imitation of American Idol, which was an imitation of–and has since surpassed–the original Pop Idol).  Only this time, the salad was a total success. Not only that, it worked out perfectly–on the first try.


Like the spring air, this salad is characterized by crispness and the heady aroma of tender green shoots.  The sprouts are both crunchy and juicy, complemented perfectly by the natural sugar of the peas and lemon scented tang of the creamy dressing. The original recipe called for raw, julienned asparagus spears, but the HH refused to even taste it unless I steamed them first; next time, I’ll stick with the raw, as I’m sure the salad would be even more appealing that way. As it was, we managed to polish it off in two meals, and wished there were more.

“Hey, Elsie–oops,  I mean, Ellen, I guess we could apply this principle to anything, couldn’t we? Like, say, treats: you win some, you lose some.  Or frisbee: you win some, you lose some!  Or how about–“

“Zip it, Chaser.  When it comes to sisters: you win some, you lose some. *Sigh.*”

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Last Year at this Time: Entirely Original Curried Pumpkin Hummus

Two Years Ago: Lucky Comestible II (5): Apple Quinoa Cake

© Ricki Heller

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  1. Whoa, nice use of “litotes!” My reaction was mostly, “Wait, is there a recipe attached to this post? Because this food blog just slapped down a word like ‘litotes!'” I’m sure whatever the recipe was, it’s fabulous.

    But “litotes!”

  2. I just love reading your stories, Ricki! I thought of you tonight because we had peas with dinner. So glad you posted this, as I was curious since you’d tweeted. I’ve never had raw asparagus before, only cooked, how daring!

  3. Didn’t want to convey the impression that I wasn’t appreciating the recipe here, rather the fact that I’m thrilled at the use of rarely-used words on my favorite blogs! I really did read the recipe, but I guess my boredom-fogged brain (yes, I’m reading blogs at work) didn’t convey my true intentions.


    Such a good word.

  4. Ricki, your posts are always such a treat to read! I do believe you summarized my dating history quite accurately as well – lots and lots of jerks amidst lots of searching, following by the complete cessation of searching, after which I immediately met Zach! 🙂 Amazing how that works… 🙂 I’m so happy for both of us! 🙂

    I’m also head over heals in love with your salad… Asparagus with a creamy cashew dressing?! Ah, spring heaven…

  5. Hmmmm…maybe I need to follow your relationship advice and give up on looking for a guy so that I can find the right one, lol?!? Here’s hoping… 🙂


  6. My mother used to say, “All’s well that ends well,” and you’re hitting two out of three good endings on this post, which isn’t too bad. (litotes?) A great partner and a great recipe kind of cancel out a less than great (litotes?) restaurant meal. Obviously you’ve taught me a new word, and I’ve become somewhat insufferable. Thanks for the fun post and spring salad!

  7. Thanks for this post! I am wondering how my own “after the starter husband” is going to turn out; glad to hear yours ended so well 🙂

  8. What an amazing blog! What writing skills you have ………. might you have written a book in grade two that was soooooo good that it was read to the ENTIRE class — one chapter at a time?

    Wow, what a sense of humor — what a delight to read!

    How proud you should be …… maybe Ellen should know?????!!!!!!

    Love ya!


  9. That salad looks delicious, so fresh and spring-y! The mayo dressing sounds terrific too – yum!

  10. Thanks for sharing this salad. We happen to love raw asparagus, and my hubby was dubious at first too. Now he is a convert. Maybe HH will come around too.

    Love your dating stories. We all have kissed a few frogs haven’t we? 😉


  11. happy anniversary! and yep, I agree, pretty presentation for dessert, but a sweet potato isn’t really going to cut it.

  12. Sweet potato for the main? How odd.

    I love your salad, so so springy!

  13. I always love reading your posts. 🙂 I have to say, though, that I would have been thrilled with that sweet potato dish! I guess the chef could also say, ‘Oh well, you win some, you lose some!’

  14. I would love this salad but I think it might not go down well with the grim eater – he is not into raw or sprouts – but I will put it aside to try anyway – I figure you win some you lose some with your household and their culinary tastes – I had great student households and always was glad to leave because one person disliked some food the got avoided for them – and was always happy to eat it again (sort of like my housemates must have missed egg because of me). I guess with you if HH doesn’t like it the girls will!

  15. Hahaha, you have had some hilarious dating adventures, that is for sure!

    I’m sorry about your restaurant adventure. I’d be dissapointed with a sweet potato as the star of the meal, too.

    Luckily that salad you whipped up looks so fresh and gorgeous! Thanks for the recipe.

  16. That salad looks like springtime in a bowl! I’m off to the produce section right now!

  17. ah, spring in a bowl 🙂 sounds perfect!!

  18. I’m counting your book’s mention on Ellen’s website a huge “win!” Congratulations on getting this exciting mention and I will keep my fingers crossed that it’ll result in an appearance on her show!

  19. This salad sounds yummy! I love pea shoots!

  20. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If I have anything to do with it, you’ll be on that show in no time. Operation Get Ricki on the Ellen Show is kicking into overdrive. I better make this pea shoot salad for energy, I’ll need it. 🙂 xoxo Kim |

  21. I had a starter hubs too. and then dated a bunch of losers. And had sworn off men. And then my hubs pursued me and the $199 las vegas wedding package, 9+ yrs and 1 kid later, we’re still married. mostly happily 🙂

  22. Leah,
    Thanks! Can’t shake that old literature training. . .! 😉

    Aw, thanks! 🙂 The HH wouldn’t eat them raw, either, but the raw ones tasted really good! I’m going to make it again that way.

    How great that you met Zach in a similar way! It’s always when you let go and leave things to the universe to work out. . . that they work out, isn’t it? 😉

    Seriously, it works. 🙂

    Yes, I suppose 2 good do cancel out one bad! And I’m not a little bit impressed with your use of litotes! (litotes!) 😉

    Glad to hear it! And sure it will work out even better. 🙂

    Aw, thanks! And thanks for taking a look at my blog! (But just to clarify, it wasnt until grade 4!). 😉

    Thanks! It really was. 🙂

    Vegan Epicurean,
    Yep. Definitely a lot of frogs! 😉

    Thanks so much. They could at least have grilled some tempeh!

    I thought so, too. 🙂

    Ha, ha! Yes, I guess he could have said that! 😉

    Yes, you wouldn’t believe how many things The Girls get to sample after we’re done!

    Thanks! It’s not that the sweet potato was bad. . . but as you say, not worthy of a starring role!

    Let me know what you think if you give it a try!

    A great way to look at it!

    Thanks so much, and thanks for all your support, as always! 😀

    Believe it or not, I’d never had them in a salad before. . .but they were yummy!

    Love the Vegas wedding! Maybe if the HH and I ever get married, we’ll do it that way! And I assume pretty much everyone is “mostly” happy! 😉

  23. Dating is so over rated – who invented it anyway? Don and I met when I was out with a girlfriend. The next night was our first date. After seeing each other every day for three months he surprised me by saying “isn’t this called going steady”? We went steady for twelve years. On that anniversary we were married by a JP in front of the fireplace at our cabin in the woods with our black cat as witness. It’s been a 33 year circus to date. Anywaaay, your ‘last year’ recipe note grabbed me – I really need to make another batch of that stuff – putting the chickpeas on to soak immediately!

  24. Yet again, your timing is impeccable, Ricki! I just picked up a package of pea shoots myself, and I now know what I’m going to do with them. 😉

  25. Happy belated anniversary. I do like the presentation of the berries 🙂

    You’re writing style is such a trip. I wish I discovered your blog sooner. I think you caught yourself a regular visitor.

  26. Mmm I love raw asparagus. The pea shoots make this salad look really interesting!

  27. A while ago I bought some pea shots. They were called Kaiserspargel (kaiser asparagus) and I thought I had bought some asparagus sprouts. I was so dissapointed that I carelessly dumped the shots into a salad. Now I’ll make sure I buy another box of shots and make sure they’ll have a leading role in THIS salad.

  28. I’m just so glad I’m not out there in the dating world, it seems like so much work. Happy Anniversary to you!!!
    Love your writing, I think I’ve told you that before.
    This slaw/salad looks fantastic!

  29. wow that is a great idea – I have used the Gluten free goddeess guide to flours to help me think about substituting GF flours but this a really helpful way to think about it – after all does anyone really have every single GF flour in that list – if they do I want to see the pantry (oops maybe you do – if so I want to see your pantry)

    And I think I would love to spend my weekends with you – I love the mix it up when it comes to breakfasts and going out – though I do hate rearranging the furniture!!!

  30. oops – just commented on the wrong post – oh dear just behind the eight ball at the moment!


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