Excerpted from The Picnic by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson (Artisan Books). Copyright (c...
I remember when my biggest financial worry was having to put gas in my car. My parents bought me a 2001 Ford Focus for my 16th birthday. I'm pretty sure a Ford Focus isn't even remotely a cool car, but I loved it beyond reckoning. Of course, as an oddball 16-year old growing up in suburbia, I would have been happy with any car. It was the embodiment of freedom. It meant I could go places. Having a car is like having a one-way ticket to anywhere at all times. The possibility in and of itself was staggeringly wonderful to me.
Paying for gas, however, was a real bummer. Of course, I was lucky to have a car at all, and my parents paid for my insurance throughout college, so I have literally nothing to complain about. When you're a teenager, though, putting gas in your car is a serious source of anxiety. If I had only known that this would be the absolute least of my concerns in a few years...
I was not, for instance, familiar yet with tax season. I vaguely remember my parents stressing about it, gathering around the computer and speaking in slightly raised voices. But the reality of paying taxes didn't hit me full in the face until the past few years. I'll spare you the detailed report and just say that "independent contractor" is code for "We will take all your money. Kay?"
I'm trying to remain positive, though. No matter what my personal opinions are on our tax code, I still have to shell out so there's no point in getting all worked up about it. Further, I have two jobs that I love, which is more than a lot of people can say.
In any case, it's hard to be too upset when spring is gaining momentum. The trees outside my window are riotous with blossom and leaf, and even the rain has a warm, sweet smell that tells me winter is over. I am inclined to be happy even if it is tax season.
This dish was inspired by some of spring's first fruits and my own obsession with salty, fragrant miso. Miso butter is by no means an idea original to me, but I think it worth passing on. If you're looking to add a deeply savory flavor to food, trade the Worcestershire bottle for a tub of miso now and again. It can work wonders.
For the record, I use frozen peas even when peas are in season. This makes sense for me because a.) I do not currently have a garden, so no fresh peas, and b.) I don't have time to shell 12 ounces worth of peas. You should also be aware that buying fresh peas is iffy at best: the natural sugars that make fresh, young peas so dreamy are fugitive, meaning they start to convert into starch from the moment they are picked. If you want a surefire way to have the sweetest, most delicious peas every time, buy the frozen ones.
Combine in a small bowl with a fork:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons white (shiro) miso
Set aside. Cut the green tops off:
1 bunch of large-ish radishes (you should have about 10 ounces of radishes after the tops have been cut off, but amounts aren't super important--use as many radishes as you want)
If the radishes are large, cut them into quarters. If smaller, cut them in half.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low. Add the miso-butter mixture and melt it. Arrange the radishes in the pan, cut side down. Cook them slowly. You want the cut sides to get a little brown, which will take about 10 minutes.
Once the radishes are browned and the miso mixture smells heavenly, turn up the heat to medium-high. Add to the pan:
12 ounces frozen or fresh green peas
Several grinds of black pepper
Cook until the peas turn bright green, about 2 minutes. Serve with:
Chopped fresh parsley
Lemon juice to taste