Peas Please

How to eat your peas after the joy of shelling.

English_Peas.jpgOne thinks of peas as being frozen. That’s how they come. And they’re pretty good, the best of the frozen vegetables. (When I was a child, milk was delivered by a man in a milk truck. It took several visits to my grandfather’s farm in Logan, Ohio to be convinced that milk came from a cow. I preferred “truck milk.”) Likewise, I didn’t discover the wonderfulness of fresh peas in a pod until I started shopping at the Farmers Market.

This time of year, fresh English peas are abundant at the Farmers Market, they ain’t cheap! They used to be $4 for a small bag, then they went up to $5 last year due to rising gasoline prices. This year they went up to $7 due to gasoline and our heavy and constant spring rains. The peas were late and the first bags were muddy, but the peas were good. Now the peas are big and fresh and yielding closer to 2 cups than 1 1/2.

I buy a bag nearly once a week and I’m constantly looking for ways to prepare them, other than “just peas.”

Tom Colicchio, in his book Think Like a Chef comments:

“Pasta with peas is my son Dante’s favorite dish (no recipe needed, it’s just what it sounds like, plus a little butter and salt. Instinctively he’s grasped one of the best combinations I can think of, made even better with the addition of lobster.”

He goes on to include a Lobster, Peas, and Pasta combination in the Trilogies section of his fine book. That recipe is fantastic, but who has lobster that often?

Seeking a simple, good, everyday side dish—not as simple as Dante’s, but simple and easy, nonetheless—I borrowed some elements of the Colicchio preparation, without the lobster. It’s good and fresh and fine as a side to nearly any meat or fish dish. Imagine the Peas n Noodles with a hunk of halibut or cod or salmon on top. Yum.

Peas n Noodles
1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh peas (one bag yields 1 1/2 to 2 cups shelled)
Cook peas in boiling water 3 to 5 minutes, drain, rinse with cold water
1/2 pound noodles (I’ve got to start making fresh pasta again!)
Cook noodles per package directions, drain
Combine peas and noodles, add some fish stock (chicken stock is okay) to properly moisten the mixture, and toss with butter.

In May, I did Squid with Black Pepper, Vietnamese Style (mentioned in my Squid Fried Rice post) and served that over the Peas n Noodles. In that case, since the Squid is saucy, the fish stock element in the Peas n Noodles was not necessary.

I’ve been loving Creamed Peas and Potatoes for years. It’s featured in my Beets Redux + Creamed Potato post.

This spring I found a Pea and Green Garlic Soup recipe by Janet Fletcher in her Simple Spring Soups feature in the SF Chronicle. For a proper soup, it starts with 3 cups of fresh peas! I did a half recipe and the soup was quite wonderful, but it made only about two servings. With this one—unlike the others above—you must use fresh peas.

Sweet Pea & Green Garlic Soup
Janet Fletcher, Chronicle
Sweet peas are essential in this recipe, adapted from my book, “Fresh from the Farmers’ Market” (Chronicle Books, 1997). If you can only get starchy peas, don’t bother.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
3 cups thinly sliced green garlic, white and pale green part only
3 cups shelled English peas (from about 3 pounds unshelled peas)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or more as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 slices day-old baguette
1 garlic clove, halved

Heat olive oil in a large pot over moderately low heat. Add the green garlic and saute 10 minutes, then cover and steam, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is soft, about 5 more minutes.

Add peas and 2 1/2 cups broth. Bring to a simmer, adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, until peas are just tender, 5 to 10 minutes.

In a blender, puree half the soup until smooth. Return the pureed half to the pot and add enough broth to achieve the consistency you like. Season with salt and pepper and reheat gently.

Toast the baguette slices until lightly colored. Rub one side with the cut side of the garlic. Drizzle with olive oil.

Divide soup among warm bowls, topping each portion with a couple of toasts.
Serves 4

So I’ve built a repertoire. Do you have a recipe featuring peas? I’d love to hear about it.

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