Well, maybe not the whole world. But to you, faithful readers of this blog, I bring the joys of that marvelous legume, the humble garden pea.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was not always so enamored of our round green friend.
When I was a kid, my mother always bought frozen peas, my parents making sure to tell us what a step up this was from the canned version from their youth. She’d heat them up, put them in a bowl, and that was that. I found them absolutely repellent, with their faint ammonia smell and tendency to wrinkle and shrivel as they cooled. My sisters and I would make every effort imaginable not to eat them, resorting if all else failed to swallowing them whole, like pills, with our milk.
As I got older I relaxed my stance peas provided that they were in something else – vegetable soup, for example. The peas would just suck up the flavor of the broth instead of tasting like their wretched selves, and they would also remain plump and firm in their soup bath, so that was acceptable. Bizarrely, I even grew to love pea soup itself, which after all tastes primarily of ham, and is incidentally one of the cheapest and easiest soups in the world to make. Yet I still couldn’t bring myself to eat peas on their own terms, as it were.
Until I went to Highland Kitchen. For those who don’t know, Highland Kitchen is one of my favorite restaurants. The food is creative without being pretentious, the drinks are fantastic, and they have a kick-ass jukebox. (They also offer a very fun spelling bee on Tuesdays!) On this particular occasion I’d ordered the pierogies, those excellent little Polish raviolis. HK’s version are potato and cheese, but the plate came dressed with fresh peas and pistachios in a light oil. They looked so plump and green sitting on the plate that I thought, why not try them?
I haven’t looked back since.
They were sweet, a little nutty, tender, yet firm. Just about everything a girl could want in a vegetable. And of course they were a lovely complement to the rich pierogie. Clearly, these peas had two things going for them that the peas of my youth did not. One, they were fresh, not frozen. Two, they weren’t boiled, which is essentially how the peas of my childhood were prepared. They were lightly, barely cooked, retaining all of the loveliness that I never knew peas were capable of.
A note about peas – the garden peas shown above don’t have edible pods – they’re too hard and fibrous. Snow peas and sugar snap peas (which I actually had the pleasure of picking at The Food Project‘s amazing Baker Farm: Look at all the peas we picked!) have an edible pea pod that is part of their delicious charm. These sorts of sweeter peas I’ve oddly never had a problem with.
Once I’d divested my peas of their shells I had to decide what to do with them. Most of the recipes for fresh peas are very, very simple – cook them for a hot minute, then garnish with a bit of mint and serve. I elected to do a bit of a more intensive variation on that theme with some spring onions from the farmer’s market and some fresh herbs from my garden. Into a pan with hot butter went the onions, mint, and dill:
These I left for another 3 minutes – just enough time to heat through and pick up the flavors of the aromatics.
I combined the whole shebang with some similarly sauteed maitaake mushrooms –
I didn’t cook them together both because the maitaakes take more time, and I used slightly different herbs – sage and basil.
Peas, onions, herbs and mushrooms went over a bed of rice and in about half an hour I had a healthy and delicious dinner! The peas are a bundle of vitamins, including vitamin K, which helps build strong bones. They’re also a great source of folic acid and vitamin B, also factors in preventing osteoporosis!
In the end, I’m happy that I gave peas a chance, and hope you’ll all consider the same!