Pea shoots

Ted Morrison/FoodPix/PictureQuest Fresh pea shoots are delicious cooked or in salads
Try these tender vines as an alternative to spinach

1. In stir-fry: In oil with minced garlic, stir-fry bite-size pieces just until wilted. If pea shoots don't wilt readily, add a few tablespoons of water. Add salt to taste.

2. In salad: Toss some leaves with chopped butter lettuce and thinly sliced red onion. Dress with toasted sesame oil and seasoned rice vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. In pasta: Sauté bite-size pieces in olive oil with minced garlic until leaves wilt. Stir in hot cooked angel hair pasta and blanched peas. Add a little of the pasta water to moisten. Toss with grated parmesan, salt, and pepper to taste.

4. In soup: Cook a little chopped ham and a generous quantity of peas in chicken broth. When peas are tender, stir in bite-size pieces of pea shoots; cook just until wilted.

Shopping for shoots

Look for pea shoots in farmers' markets or Asian markets (where they're often labeled dou miao). You want only tender new growth. Take a bite of the shoots and tendrils; if they?re tough and stringy, strip off the tender leaves and stems and discard the rest.

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