Wednesday, November 25, 2015

For Thanksgiving Pies, Skip the Can

Traveling along I-81 last week, I spied a field of bright orange globes, rowed and ready for final harvest.  Destined for a cannery, these pumpkins will star in pies, muffins and other delectable creations.  Although they are clearly locally grown, these winter squash lack the visceral connection I have to my own garden pumpkins.  For Thanksgiving pie, there is no substitute for my paternal grandmother's heirloom pumpkins and this year's crop is extra-special, produced from seed Maw Hamby saved from one of her last harvests, circa 1993.

2015 Crop of Maw Hamby's Pumpkins

Winter Squash Make Beautiful Decorations 
Heirloom gardeners know successful crop production depends upon plant diversity.  This year, for example, was a dismal okra and corn year at Heart & Sole, but tomatoes and peppers produced abundantly.  Last year, pumpkins vines failed to yield a single mature squash, but this year proved to be one of my most successful pumpkin crops and to know these hefty orbs, with their unique shapes and pale orange colors, are the same fruit that grew in my grandmother's Happy Valley garden, gives me pause to appreciate the connectivity of heirloom seeds and family.  

My paternal grandmother, Ethel Bolick Hamby, better known as Maw to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, loved traveling, reading and watching baseball.  She did not love housecleaning, which she called "Idiot Work," or everyday cooking; however, she was locally famous for a couple of dishes, namely her cast-iron skillet upside-down pineapple cake and a chess-type pumpkin pie, made from her own harvest.  For Maw's pumpkin pie recipe, read Pumpkin Is Personal.

Recently, as I waited my turn in line at a grocery store check-out, I noticed cans of pumpkin a young woman loaded onto the conveyor belt.  "Are you making pie for Thanksgiving?" I asked.  She frowned and replied, "I'm not sure what I will do with that.  Maybe muffins?  Some kind of sweet bread?"  I pictured the brown goo inside the can and restrained myself from offering to deliver a real pumpkin to her home.  Just like the flavor of heirloom tomatoes trump industrially grown fruits, there is no comparison between a real, heirloom pumpkin, roasted to perfection, and what comes from a grocery store canned product.  

Large pumpkins can be daunting for home cooks, but are relatively easy to process and yield an impressive amount of product.  For my Thanksgiving pies, I chose a 25 pound pumpkin and used a large chef's knife to cut it into sections.  After scooping out seeds to save for next year's planting, I placed the pieces in two large baking dishes with about a half-inch of water.  Popped into a hot (425 degree) oven for about an hour, the sections began to collapse and I let them cool before scooping the flesh from the shells.  Borrowing a tip from my friend, Angie Rash, I placed the pumpkin in a large salad spinner to allow moisture to drain from the fruit.  

Fresh, roasted heirloom pumpkin is delicious and almost impossible to resist tasting as one processes it.  The flesh is bright orange and pleasantly sweet.  I freeze 2-cup increments in plastic bags and enjoy it throughout the winter in soups, stews, pies, muffins, etc.  After tasting heirloom pumpkin, supermarket products have no appeal.  

While preparing a pumpkin for processing, I noticed there was a good bit of usable product under the stem and cut a thin slice to taste.  Raw pumpkin?  Delicious.  That baby kale I just picked?  Pumpkin seeds?  Sounds like a fall salad to me. . . Look for an heirloom pumpkin for your next culinary adventure.  The possibilities are endless and the flavor is extraordinary.  That canned stuff?  Leave it on the shelf.

Heirloom Pumpkin and Kale Salad

1 cup diced raw pumpkin
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 grinds black pepper
Dash sea salt
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar

Blend ingredients and refrigerate for up to one hour

Fry 2 strips thick bacon, rendering fat, in a large skillet
Remove bacon and add 4 cups shredded fresh kale to hot grease

Briefly saute kale until wilted, but still bright green

Combine kale, pumpkin, 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds and 1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles in a large bowl.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for cold serving.  Crumble bacon on top before serving.
*For vegetarian dish, omit bacon and use olive oil to saute kale.



Thursday, November 19, 2015

Heirloom Seeds Make Thanksgiving Centerpiece a Conversation Piece

Sandwiched between Halloween's sugar highs and frantic Christmas shopping, Thanksgiving is a holiday that offers quiet reflection as family and friends gather to share food and gratitude.  Bare tree branches indicate Winter's arrival and gardeners and farmers breathe a sigh of relief as they proudly take inventory of preserved harvests.  Canned tomatoes, beans, squash, peas, pickles, jams, peppers and more line my pantry shelves and many of these ingredients will grace our family's Thanksgiving table, but this year, I decided to include some decorative harvests that will, fingers crossed, produce crops next summer.

String peppers to dry for culinary purposes or to save seeds for next year's planting

Saving heirloom seeds requires time and space.  During the height of summer, my dining room table holds as many plates of drying seeds as I can fit on it, corn hangs from the curtain rods, mature squash (summer and winter) fill the garage and basement and an odd assortment of glasses hold water and seeds atop kitchen counters.  No doubt about it, my summer home could easily be mistaken for a Weird Science exhibit.  
Dried Okra Pods Inspire Centerpiece

Some plants, like okra, dry in the fields and when I cut stalks of okra pods recently, I was inspired by their curled beauty and decided to attempt a centerpiece for the dining room table that would include several varieties of heirloom seeds. 

Cracks and Chips Testify to the Age of This Family Dough Bowl
For the Thanksgiving table centerpiece, I chose an old wooden dough bowl, its cracks and chips testament to the years it produced homemade biscuits.  A block of florist's foam in the center of the bowl proved to be the perfect tool for anchoring okra limbs. 
Next, I added ears of dried Cherokee Long Ear popcorn and Hopi corn, and used the attached shucks to fill in space.  I placed summer squash around the edge and tucked in strings of dried peppers.
Summer squash hold seeds for next year

Some flowering mums from the yard, kept fresh with stems held in place with plastic florist vials of water, completed the project.
Next Year's Heirloom Crops
Although I love beautiful flower arrangements, I admit I am not talented when it comes to creating centerpieces; however, along with favorite foods, our Thanksgiving feast will include what may be more of a conversation piece than most table decorations.  At the very least, it will offer a glimpse of what will (hopefully) grow in next year's garden.
Heirloom Seeds Make Thanksgiving Table Conversation Piece

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pop! Goes the Heirloom Corn

There are probably people who do not enjoy the ritual of popping popcorn.  Choosing the right pot, large enough to accommodate popped corn, adding just the right amount of oil and heating it on a stovetop, pouring in the kernels and listening to that satisfying sizzle, covering the pot with a lid and shaking the mixture over a hot eye until the kernels begin to explode, zinging the pot's interior with pings that sound like ricocheting bullets, can be a daunting task for those who relish the convenience of microwave popcorn.  But, in my opinion, nothing compares to the flavor of stovetop popcorn, with its unique aroma and salty crunch of hot-from-the-pot kernels.

Cherokee Long Ear Popcorn, Beautiful & Delicious

As a child, I looked forward to Sunday evenings.  After the busyness of morning church activities, a large midday meal, which our family called dinner, visits with relatives and a light supper, usually comprised of sandwiches my mother prepared from dinner leftovers, my brother and I would settle in front of our black-and-white television.  I am not sure how old he was when he became the official family popcorn popper, but for years, Dale served us big bowls of delicious crunchiness, the perfect accompaniment to The Wonderful World of Disney and The Ed Sullivan Show.  
Productive Popcorn
Occasionally, Dale scorched the popcorn and my parents complained about the smell, but I secretly loved the taste of burned popcorn.  Long before our favorite television shows ended, the popcorn disappeared, leaving only old maids, those kernels that resisted popping, in the bowls.   
Dale Hamby Holds His Special Popcorn Pot
When my brother and his wife welcomed sons to their family, my mother presented Dale with her aluminum popcorn pot, the same device he used to make our favorite Sunday evening treat all those years ago.  Although he finds it useful for cooking scout camp meals, Dale also pops corn in that pot for his own family.  Recently we talked about our shared love of popcorn and I wondered why, rather than purchase supermarket popcorn, I did not try to grow my own. 
Checking for Germination & Maturity
An heirloom seed catalog enticed me to purchase Cherokee Long Ear popcorn seeds in 2009, but I stored the seeds in my freezer until this year.  Farmers do not grow popcorn and sweet corn in close proximity because wind and pollinators will carry pollen from one crop to the other, resulting in corn that is not sweet, as it should be.  Ideally, growers plant popcorn a great distance from sweet corn or delay planting one of the varieties until the other has bloomed.  On July 1st, when it was obvious my Hopi corn did not produce successfully, I planted colorful Cherokee Long Ear popcorn.
After Several Years, Cherokee Long Ear Seeds Germinated Well
Since the seeds were several years old, I planted them thickly, but
almost every seed germinated and a few weeks later, I thinned seedlings to allow ample growing room.  On September 24th, I pulled a few ears to check maturity and found the popcorn to be nicely germinated with rows of beautifully colored kernels.  Since popcorn dries on the ear before shelling, I left the majority of the crop standing in the field until early October, when I harvested 74 ears.
Colorful Popcorn Cobs Make Great Fire Starters
After the popcorn dried for a few weeks in well-ventilated space, I tested a small amount to be sure the kernels would pop and then shelled the ears.  Impressed by the 4 1/2 pound yield and the delicious flavor, I vowed to grow Cherokee Long Ear every year.  Now that I have plenty of seeds to plant next year and enough to share, I wonder if I can entice my brother to pull out his special popcorn pot?  If he scorches the Cherokee Long Ear, I will not complain.  Heck, I'll even rent a couple of old Disney movies to sweeten the deal.

If you love popcorn and want to enjoy a special treat, seek out heirloom varieties at local farmer's markets or plan to grow your own next year.  I use the following ingredients to add flavor to popped corn, but the instructions for popping are Dale's recipe.

Dale's Sunday Evening Popcorn

In a large pot with a long handle and covered lid, add about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.  Heat over medium high heat until oil coats bottom of pot.  Add 2 ounces popcorn kernels and shake pot to combine kernels and oil.  Place lid on pot.  Shake vigorously over heat until kernels begin to pop.  Continue shaking pop to allow unpopped kernels to settle to bottom.  To avoid scorching, do not allow popcorn to sit idle while popping.  (Unless you like it that way!)  Occasionally, slightly move the lid to one side to allow a bit of air to enter the pot.  This helps more kernels to pop successfully, but take care to prevent popping kernels from escaping the pot.  When popping slows, remove the pot from heat and pour popcorn into serving bowls.  Add a light sprinkling of salt and enjoy.

Fresh Herbs Add Flavor and Nutritional Punch

Fresh Herb Topping
Snip a combination of fresh herbs you enjoy.  I use basil, thyme, rosemary, borage, oregano, parsley, chives and sage.  Strip the leaves from woody stems like thyme and rosemary.  Using a large chef's knife, chop herbs until they are finely chopped and combined.  Yield should be about 2 tablespoons.  
In a small bowl, combine herbs with about 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil.
Toss hot popcorn with herb mixture and serve immediately.

Cheesy Pepper Topping
Toss hot popcorn with about 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese to combine.  Top with a light sprinkling of red pepper flakes.  Serve and enjoy.

Herb topping on left, Cheesy Pepper on Right

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mayberry Does Exist

We almost missed it.  A small white sign with blue letters, leaning precariously to one side, held in place with spindly wire rods stuck into earth along the highway's shoulder.  One of thousands of its kind, scattered along NC roadways, advertising everything from yard sales to income tax assistance services and easily ignored, but, for some reason, this one caught attention.

"Did that say something about crab?"  Richard asked. 

Before I could reply, another sign followed the first.  "Crab Feast!"  Richard exclaimed.  

It was the word "feast" that cinched our decision to leave our planned route and take a small two-lane road that bisected miles of burned forest land in search of the event.  "Festival" probably would not offer the same enticement, but "feast," with images of Thanksgiving, passed plates of delicious foods and aromatic cooking smells made us detour our journey home to take an unfamiliar drive to a place we never heard of.  Besides, we were hungry.

Road construction almost hid the town's directional sign

When we turned into the small village of Stumpy Point, it was like driving back in time.  A single, two-lane road meandered along a picturesque body of water, punctuated by neat homes.  Arriving at a small community center, which seemed to be bustling with activity, we parked across the street near a Methodist church which reflected bright afternoon sunlight and stood, brilliantly white, against October blue sky.   As we approached the community center, next door to the Volunteer Fire Department, host to the Crab Feast, we were welcomed by warm smiles and friendly greetings.  A tall man took us under his wing and led us into the community center, eager to tell us about the Crab Feast after we explained we had never attended one before, but were led to his town after reading the signs along the highway.  From his surprised expression, we guessed not many other travelers made the trek.

After we purchased tickets, two volunteers stamped our hands and the man who ushered us inside told the women, "These people are not from around here.  They saw the signs at the highway and decided to come."  Perhaps there was no hidden message in his statement, but I wondered if those signs were his idea or maybe there had been some discussion among the townspeople about the effectiveness of posting signs.  At any rate, the volunteers directed us to a buffet of fresh local food with encouragement to "stay as long as you like and eat as much as you want!"

Servers ladled steaming crab stew, carefully adding half a crab, dumplings, potatoes, celery and rich broth to each bowl.  Fried crabs followed the stew, broken in half to make picking the sweet meat easier.  Cole slaw and baked beans were next and then hushpuppies and fresh local fish, battered and fried just beyond the serving line by a man who worked expertly and efficiently in a small space.  Drink choices were both kinds of tea, sweet and unsweet, and Richard and I juggled bowls, plates and cups as we made our way to an outdoor picnic table where a couple moved to make room for us.
The Point at Stumpy Point, NC

We chatted with the local fisherman and his companion while dredging the succulent fish in a tangy sauce.  When I tasted the stew, I sighed.  "Good, right?  Everybody loves that stew."  The fisherman nodded as I spooned the goodness in what I hoped was a not-too-indecent pace.  We noticed our nearby dining companions were expertly removing tiny bits of crab meat from the fried shells, but I am afraid we were a bit wasteful, owing to inexperience.  Still, the bites we retrieved were nothing short of delightful.  After eating our fill from the buffet, we made our way to the VFD building where a helpful greeter told us to "sit where ever you like and someone will bring you steamed crabs."  Really?  That simply, these people stole our hearts.
A tray of fresh, steamed crabs
The tray of steamed crabs was delivered, as promised, and a young woman gave us a quick lesson in how to break open crabs, seek sweet meat from hiding places and crack claws with a round wooden mallet.  Using our fingers to dip the tender bites in drawn butter before popping them in our mouths, we enjoyed as much as we could before, regretfully, admitting defeat and stopping to wash our hands (and faces) in preparation for the trip home to western NC.

Before driving away, we stopped to chat with a life long resident on the steps of the community center and he told us this is a bumper crop year for blue crabs. I naively asked, "Is the Feast always this weekend of the year?"  He laughed and said, "Oh, no.  The Feast depends on when the crabs come in.  We never know when that will be."  His words gave me pause; crab harvests are no different than any other crop.  Abundance, whether it is crabs or heirloom tomatoes, is cause for celebration.  We should all make time to enjoy Nature's bounty, no matter what a human calendar may dictate.
Following a truck loaded with fresh NC crabs
To a chorus of good-byes and calls to visit again soon, we drove away.  As we left Stumpy Point, we met a young boy whizzing along the road in the opposite direction.  His gap-toothed smile wide, hand flung high over his head in a wave, his joy was palpable.  A visceral memory hit us both simultaneously and we shook our heads, recognizing that feeling of freedom, of independence, that only a two-wheeled bicycle can give a child.  

I believe Mayberry, that folksy, time-out-of-time small town made famous by black-and-white television, exists today.  Those fictional characters who supported each other with kind words and gestures are alive and well.  Their home is a place where strangers are welcome, where hard work is rewarded, where local food is more than a slogan, where self-sufficiency is an everyday practice and where a child can ride a bicycle as fast as the wind, with safety and love surrounding him.  With apologies to Mt. Airy, I believe Mayberry is real, but today, it is called Stumpy Point.  We will return. . .

The Stumpy Point crab stew was so good, I purchased fresh local crab meat before leaving the NC coastal area.  Back at home, I made a version of that delicious dish.  With luck, you may find some of this year's fresh bumper crab crop and I hope you will try this recipe.  

Crab Stew

2 ounces diced pancetta or thick sliced bacon
olive oil, if needed
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup each:
diced carrot, scallion, potatoes and celery
*Since crab meat is delicate, use equal parts green and white for the scallion
1/2 cup fresh, canned or frozen whole corn kernels
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped and stems discarded
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh crabmeat

In a large stockpot, over low heat, render fat from pancetta, until meat is lightly browned.  Use a slotted spoon to remove meat and, if needed, add enough olive oil to equal about 1 tablespoon oil.  Add 2 tablespoons flour to hot oil and use whisk to combine.  Stir until mixture makes a smooth roux and starts to brown, about 3 minutes.  If roux is too thick, add a bit more oil.  Add wine, stir to combine and reduce over low heat by 1/2, about 4-5 minutes.  
Add carrots, scallion, potatoes and celery, stir to combine.  Add thyme leaves and 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock.  Season with salt and pepper.  
Cook over low heat until vegetables are tender, about 10-12 minutes.
Add pancetta and corn, heat until hot, about 2 minutes.
Stir in crab and heat, but do not boil.
Serve hot, with cornbread or hush puppies. 
*Stew may be made a day before serving.  Overnight refrigeration allows flavors to meld.

Crab stew with cornbread

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wild NC Persimmons

Certain words are ingrained in my memory.  "Bitter" is one I learned when I was about seven years old.  That fall, my paternal grandfather, Lawrence Hamby, took me to hike land not far from his Happy Valley home and we came upon a wild persimmon tree.  Recent frost sweetened the fruit and he handed me a small, dusky orange globe and told me to taste it.  Sweeter than my grandmother's pumpkins or my mother's sweet potato casserole, the treat delighted me and I reached to pick another from the tree branch above my head.  When my grandfather saw my face after I popped the fruit in my mouth, he laughed and said, "Made your mouth pucker, didn't it?"  My first encounter with truly bitter flavor, that wild persimmon is a taste memory I carry to this day.

Unripe wild persimmons are very bitter
This week, to celebrate my fifty-seven years, Richard and I traveled to a remote location on North Carolina's northern Outer Banks.  Twiddy and Company provided a delightful Carova home escape with 4x4 Atlantic beach access and quiet canals that beckoned boats to the Currituck Sound.  When we arrived at the rental home, wild horses, descendants of Spanish explorers, greeted us, curious about the food supplies we carried in large coolers, but we obeyed local laws and did not feed them.  
One of the Carova greeters
Thousands of migratory birds swooped by our outdoor seating as they continued their long journeys to warmer winter climates and early one morning, I watched a blue heron slowly fly along the canal in our backyard, his wings a mirrored image in the still water.  Along with the joy of observing wildlife in this pristine environment, I discovered a grove of persimmon trees, yielding ripe, sweet fruit that awakened childhood memories and inspired possible recipe ideas.  Richard and I walked among the trees, shaking trunks and scooping the falling fruit.

Sunset over a Carova canal
After carefully washing the persimmons, we squeezed the seeds from the fruit and placed them on a glass plate where they could dry, planning to grow them at our western NC home.  The fruit was lush, sweetly delicious and required no blanching or pre-cooking.  I added persimmon pulp to pancake batter and we enjoyed a wild, sweet treat for breakfast.  
Carova Wild Persimmons on Tree
Growing food is a soul-satisfying task; foraging wild food that rekindles a connection to family history is priceless.  If you are fortunate enough to find wild persimmons, try this recipe for a breakfast that will offer sustenance for your body and inspiration for your soul.  Just be sure the fruit is ripe; if it is not, you may create your own bitter taste memory!

Wild Persimmon Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup persimmon pulp
1 large egg

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.  Add wet ingredients, mix well.  In a large skillet, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil and fry batter, in 1/4 cup batches, in 3-inch rounds, flipping when bubbles form on top.  Serve with warm honey or fruit syrup.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Garden Volunteers Welcome!

At the end of each summer gardening season, I try to tabulate statistics.  While not as exciting for sports fans as football yardage or baseball batting averages, these numbers reveal the best and worst performing plants and often dictate plans for the following spring.  

Volunteer Squash and Volunteer Watermelon

As I recently thumbed through volumes of spiral-bound notebooks, dirt stained pages that represent years of farm work, I noticed a surprising trend.  Although some crops produced extremely well during certain years, those same heirloom varieties sometimes have a "off" year.  Drought, too much rain, less-than-ideal temperature swings and pest attacks all contribute to crop failure, but those dirty notebooks reveal that, year after year, volunteer plants consistently outperform the ones I place in the soil.  
My grandmother's marigolds frequently volunteer at the farm

"Volunteer" plants spring from seed that is left in fields, whether in late season fruits and vegetables or those undesirable harvests that are cast aside and left to rot where they fall.  Last spring, Richard ran the tiller through several dried summer squash and the plants that grew from scattered seeds, protected through the winter by a hard shell, thrived and produced fruit from May until October.  Since there were so many seedlings, I did not plant additional seed, but conversations with other area farmers revealed it was not a great squash season for some.  When I tabulate the pounds I picked from those volunteer squash, I expect the total harvest to be in the hundreds.  Not bad, considering those seeds planted themselves!
Late season squash & Whippoorwill peas, harvested from volunteers
 Volunteer plants will grow anywhere a seed finds the right environment and can sometimes show up in surprising places.  One of our best-producing salad tomatoes grew from a tiny space in the rock wall that surrounds an herb garden.  A couple of years ago, a bird "planted" an asparagus seed in a large pot at our home and that plant produced edible spears this year.  Currently, one of my favorite volunteers is a large borage plant, a beautiful herb that tastes like cucumber and boasts a beautiful, deep blue edible blossom.  Conveniently, that plant chose a container that was filled with composted soil, but no other plants.
Beautiful Borage has a cucumber flavor

It is satisfying for gardeners to grow neat, orderly rows of healthy fruits and vegetables, but if you are willing to take a chance on volunteers and do not mind less than perfect garden layout, allow volunteer plants to grow where they choose.  An abundant harvest of "free food" just might be your reward.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Let There Be (Whippoorwill) Peas on Earth

My maternal grandmother's peas first grew at Heart & Sole Gardens in 2012, when my parents cleaned their freezer and passed these heirloom seeds to me.  Since Granny died in 1986, I was unsure about the germination abilities of more than twenty-five-year old seeds, so I sowed them thickly.  Granny's peas, a variety known as Whippoorwill, not only germinated at a high rate, they produced an abundant crop of delicious peas.  

Freshly shelled Whippoorwill Peas

According to information published on the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange site, African slaves introduced Whippoorwill peas to the United States and Thomas Jefferson grew the legumes in his Monticello gardens.  Although I do not know how Whippoorwill peas came to my family, I am very grateful for these high-yielding, delicious heirloom seeds.  
Whippoorwill peas bloom in early morning
One of several varieties known collectively as Cowpeas, field peas or Crowder peas, Whippoorwills, cooked only in water, create a thick, meaty broth, or pot liquor, that makes a hearty soup base.  Like other heirloom seeds at Heart & Sole, last year's Whippoorwills reseeded and I have harvested as many peas from those volunteer plants as from the more orderly rows I actually planted this spring.  As versatile as they are productive, Whippoorwill peas may be dried, canned or frozen.  Packed with healthy doses of protein, fiber, B vitamins and magnesium, a half-cup of cooked Whippoorwills is only about 80 calories.   
Fresh peas on left, dried seed peas on right

While in season, look for these delicious peas at your local farmer's market and try this recipe for Whippoorwill Hummus.  I like the texture of blanched peas, but for a smoother mixture, boil the peas until they are tender enough to mash with a fork.  Be sure to save the pot liquor!

Whippoorwill Pea Hummus
1 cup fresh shelled peas
1/2 clove garlic
1 red chile pepper, seeded
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon pot liquor (pea broth)
1 teaspoon salt (I used NC's OBX sea salt)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a small pot, boil peas in water for about 2 minutes, longer if you would like a smoother hummus.  Place peas in ice water to blanch, reserving broth.
Blend peas, garlic, pepper, juice, tahini, pot liquor and salt in a food processor until all ingredients are incorporated into a thick mixture.  While processor is running, add olive oil in a thin stream and continue processing until mixture is desired consistency.

Serve with crudities, naan, crackers or just a spoon.  
Simple ingredients combine to make a decadent pea hummus