At the risk of giving away my true age, I can remember shucking fresh peas at the kitchen counter with my mom. Call me old-fashioned, but I still do this whenever I can.
Sadly, these days, few folks seem to want to take the time to find shuck-able peas, and then sit down and shell them.
That's a darn shame. Fresh peas are so worth the effort. Today, it's all about the fresh frozen (can peas even be fresh and frozen at the same time?); the do-nothing-and-eat-them-as-they-are pods; the canned mushy teeny-tiny ones; or the dried wasabi-flavored snacking variety. I say, let's get back to the basics.
The pea is just about the most perfect thing to get really young children interested in finger food that's good for them (while simultaneously being perfect for them to flick at their siblings).
Peas are great sources of vitamin A, C, thiamin, foliate, iron and phosphorus. One pound of peas in a pod equals about one cup of shelled peas.
Fresh is always best, so look for pea pods that are firm and bright-green. Forget the really large pods, as those peas tend to be somewhat starchy. You'll need about a pound for every cup of peas you want. As peas age after being picked, the sugar content turns to starch, making the peas less sweet, so it's best to use them within a day or two of buying them.
While I'm advocating using regular shelled peas in these recipes, you can, for the most part, substitute snow peas or sugar snaps. All peas (shelled, snow, sugar snap) can be prepared with just a little water or broth. The less liquid you use and the less time you cook them, the fewer vitamins are lost in the process.
I like really crispy fresh peas, so this is how I cook them when I'm serving them as a side dish.
For a pound of peas, bring three cups of water or broth to a boil. Add a pinch of salt to the water, then dump in the peas. Remove peas from heat and let them sit in the water for about 60 seconds (longer if you want them softer), and then drain them in a colander.
Place in a glass bowl (the color really shines) and serve.
3 cups fresh peas
3 cups fresh corn
1 can (8 oz.) sliced water chestnuts, drained, rinsed
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
4 green onions, sliced thin
1/2 lb. pepper-Jack cheese, diced into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
11/2 Tbsps. sugar
3 Tbsps. rice-wine vinegar
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2-1 tsp. salt
1/2-1 tsp. pepper
In a bowl, combine the peas, corn, water chestnuts, red pepper, green pepper, green onion and cheese. Mix to combine.
In another bowl, combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.
Pour dressing over salad. Toss to coat, cover and chill for 1 hour before serving.
Serves 8 to 10.
Green Peas and Sugar Snap Peas in Sesame Dressing
Bon Appétit, July 2004
3 cups fresh peas (from 3 lbs. peas in pods)
12 oz. sugar snap peas, trimmed
2 Tbsps. unseasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Oriental sesame oil
1 Tbsp. (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Cook shelled peas in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 11/2 minutes.
Add the sugar snap peas to the same pan and continue boiling 30 seconds. Drain; rinse under cold water and drain again. Transfer to large bowl.
Whisk the vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt and pepper in small bowl to blend. (Peas and dressing can be prepared 2 hours ahead of time. Let stand separately at room temperature.)
Pour dressing over peas in large bowl; toss to coat. Season salad to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired.
Serves 6 to 8.