Here is the odd thing -- our first piece of advice within this edition of What’s Fresh is to buy frozen – they have come a long way. While fresh shelling peas are in the market right now, they can be a very dicey proposition. The moment peas come off the vine, their tender sweetness begins to convert to starch with alarming rapidity. Peas from far away (California for instance) are clearly most affected by this change, but recently sampling at the Union Square Greenmarket reveals that it is darn tough to find a sweet pea. One farmer we have mentioned before – Rick Bishop from Mountain Berry Sweet Farm – bucked the trend and had couple of fresh and sweet tasting pea varieties. Both his English Peas and his Petits Pois were great raw and would be fantastic cooked in any manner.
Some great ways to eat peas – fresh during the high season and all year long from frozen – are listed below. For frozen peas we have come to really love the Whole Foods product, which is a baby pea, reasonably priced and of fantastic quality.
Gently poach fresh shelled peas in salted water with a dab of butter on top.
Blanch and shock peas in salted, then ice water for most following recipes
Puree blanched and shocked peas, strain, add a dash of sea salt and serve with any of the following flavors mixed in or on top. Mixed in – sauté of bacon, chopped chervil seared quartered sea scallops. On top – toasted fresh bread crumbs, chopped toasted pine nuts, crisp julienne of Serrano ham.
Bonus info - if you are holding the puree for any length of time, crack a powered tablet of vitamin C into the puree to maintain vibrant color. You can also introduce any of the following into the initial puree to give it a boost; a few drops of lemon juice, a bit of lettuce, finely diced shallots, a sprig of mint.
Pasta – here are some links to some recipes using peas:
with Bacon and Ricotta
with Garlic and Ricotta Salata
Ravioli (and a few other good pea recipes)
with Fava Beans and Prosciutto
with hard boiled Eggs and Pimentos