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Off the Fork: My Shelter Island 10K runners have arrived

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTOS Pasta with pea shoots, prosciutto and pecorino. The edible flowers are vetch.

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTOS Pasta with pea shoots, prosciutto and pecorino.

Vigorous exercise is a good excuse for eating well, so the Shelter Island 10K is a highlight of my summer. My husband started training for and running the 10K in 1992.

At the time, I was pregnant with our second child, and my spouse and I were gaining weight at about the same rate. Twenty-five years later, he is still running, this year alongside the son I gave birth to back then.

Every year, I ask my husband if I should make any special foods to prepare him for Saturday evening’s big event, and every year he assures me that for a race of this length, it is not necessary to eat a high-carbohydrate meal the night before.

That is not the answer I am looking for.

Wanting a second opinion, I checked out the nutrition and diet guidelines of the great Meb Keflezighi, champion marathoner and Olympian, who has run the Shelter Island 10K twice. Turns out lasagna with a nice meat sauce and two kinds of cheese was not on his list of pre-race nutrition suggestions either.

This year, I’m making pasta with pea shoots.

Freshness is of the utmost importance with pea shoots. They are not a grocery store item, and local is the only way to go. But when pea shoots are in season, (now) they are a reminder of why it’s so great to live near people who grow food.

For example, there is Melissa Henrey, at The Farm Beyond (3005 Youngs Avenue, Southold) who has pea shoots at her Friday, Saturday and Sunday market. Tarragon provides a welcome aroma in any dish with pea shoots, as does garlic, so I’ve included both in my recipes.

Pasta with pea shoots, prosciutto and pecorino

Serves 4
1 pound of pea shoots (note: Broccoli rabe, spinach or any soft green ­— but not kale or collards — can be substituted for pea shoots in this recipe).
1 tablespoon of salt
1 pound of dried pasta, of a short and stubby shape, like penne or fusilli.
3 tablespoons of olive oil
4 ounces of prosciutto, sliced in thin strips
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon
3 ounces grated pecorino Romano cheese
2 cups of the water the shoots were blanched in.

1. Remove the ends of the pea shoots if they are tough or dry, rinse, drain, and cut into bite size lengths.

2. Bring six quarts of water to a boil and add salt.

3. Blanch the shoots by stirring them in the boiling water for 1 minute. Remove them to a strainer with a slotted spoon, and rinse briefly with cold water.

4. Cook the pasta in the pea shoot water until it is still very firm, about 2 minutes less than the cooking time on the package. Reserve two cups of the cooking water before you drain the pasta.

5. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large sauce pan, add the prosciutto and cook over a medium heat until the prosciutto is browned a bit on the edges.

6. Add the pea shoots and tarragon to the saucepan and stir to coat the shoots with oil.

7. Add the pasta, and ½ cup of the reserved cooking water, stirring over medium heat to continue cooking the pasta.

8. Add half of the pecorino and another ½ cup of the cooking water, and continuing to stir over medium heat. The mixture should be saucy but not watery, and the pasta and shoots should be getting a nice coating of the cheese/water combination. Keep adding water and cheese and stirring until you get there.

9. Serve in a warm bowl, topped with a grind of pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO Pea shoots are called dragon whiskers in China, and any 2-year- old can tell you why. Listen for a sizzle when the shoots hit the pan.

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO Pea shoots are called dragon whiskers in China, and any 2-year- old can tell you why. Listen for a sizzle when the shoots hit the pan.

Noisy, garlicky, pea shoots

Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 mixed  with brown rice for a vegetarian,  gluten-free main dish

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
12 ounces of pea shoots, washed and thick base removed
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves

1. Warm the olive oil in a large sauce pan and add the garlic.

2. Cook at a low heat until the garlic is soft and fragrant.

3. With kitchen scissors, or a large knife cut the tangle of washed shoots into five or six smaller bunches.

4. Turn the heat up under the pan, and put the shoots and tarragon into the hot oil. You should hear the sizzle from the moist shoots hitting the oil.

5. With tongs or slotted spoon, turn the shoots to coat them and cook for up to two minutes, until they are just wilted and bright green.

6. Serve as a side dish, or combine the cooked shoots with two cups of cooked brown rice and a drizzle of olive oil for a vegetarian dish.

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