Despite the recent brouhaha around the New York Times recommendation for using peas as an avocado substitute/extender, peas still remain a late spring/early summer a favorite for many gardeners and farmers market shoppers. Yes, there are plenty of pea-haters, but when you love peas like many of us do, you are thrilled to see there arrival in the garden and markets–and cherish their short stay.
Gardeners start peas early–St. Patrick’s Day by tradition, and it takes most of the past three months for these tiny treats to make their way to our plates. The early ones are tiny gems sweet crunch that you can just pop in your mouth like candy. By now, they are getting a bit too starchy and bitter for eating raw, but still make wonderful soups.
Children’s Garden at Campos planted several varieties of peas this year–a sweet Amish Snap Pea, and two shelling pea varieties: a beautiful blue-purple podded pea and a classic green arrow. The blue podded was particularly prolific and very sweet and delicious. A keeper to be sure. Here are some photos of this season’s pea parade:
Peas taste great raw when they are very young, and as they grow fatter, get a bit starchier and make a wonderful thick soup. Here are two recipes that highlight peas fresh, sweet flavor and satisfying texture, first, a classic cold mint-infused English pea soup; and second, a satisfying saute dish that champions the now controversial pairing peas with avocado. (For more recipes with peas, see NYC Foodscape’s post from June 2013, Peas, Glorious Peas — Two Delicious Ways to Use Spring’s Funnest Vegetable).
Fresh Pea and Mint Soup with Sheep’s Milk Yogurt
This soup is served cold and makes a great picnic soup, but will work just as deliciously served hot. The mint stands out to accent the creamy tang of the yogurt.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups fresh or frozen and thawed peas
3 cups water or vegetable stock
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup greek-style yogurt (sheep’s milk, preferably)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute about 5 minutes, until softened and translucent. Add peas, stir to coat. Add water or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until peas are tender, about 5-10 minutes.
2. Remove pan from heat. Add herbs. Puree soup in a blender in batches, or with an immersion blender. Add more water or stock if soup is too thick, and puree until smooth. Add lemon juice, then salt and pepper to taste. Pour soup into large bowl and refrigerate until chilled, at least two hours.
3. To serve, whisk 1/4 cup of the yogurt into soup. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Ladle soup into four bowls and garnish with a dollop of remaining yogurt and 1/2 teaspoon of chopped chives.
Sugar Snap, Asparagus and Avocado Saute, with Mint and Parmesan Cheese
This recipe highlights the early snap peas and last of the asparagus, with the unusual addition of avocado. Garnished with mint and parmesan cheese, it’s a sweet, flavorful and satisfying way to get kids to eat their peas. And indeed, the New York Times didn’t choose to use peas to help extend the increasingly expensive and recent California drought-afflicted avocado in its now notorious guacamole recipe out of thin air. Recipes have paired peas with avocado for years, as one of the recipes below does, and it was a chef as haute and respected as Jean-Georges Vongerichten who is credited with creating the pea-avocado guacamole recipe.
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and cook about 2 minutes. Add snap peas and cook an additional 30 seconds. Drain and place into ice bath to stop cooking.
2. In a saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add asparagus, snap peas, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add avocado, herbs and cheese. Toss to combine; season with salt and pepper and a squirt of lemon. Serve topped with additional cheese, if desired.
Boys Club STEM Class Tasting
Today we held the first series of summer classes with the Boys Club of New York and we shared the last of the peas and the Fresh Pea and Mint Soup Recipe with the boys…a couple of skeptics, of course, but several boys loved it so much they came back for second, thirds and even wanted more, but we had to hold back for the next class.