Every year, we’re sure the garden will be a bust.
Every year, the alchemy of sun, soil and rain amazes us. The beans flower, the squash blossoms, and the root vegetables, well, take root. By late June, we’re invariably drowning in something.
This year it’s peas; specifically, organic snowpeas from High Mowing Seeds in Vermont. Every morning we go out to check the pea vines and come back with bowls of verdant pods. They’re crisp and sweet and wonderful to eat … for about two days. Then the sugars turn to starch, and the taste turns to mud.
Sure, I could freeze my peas — and I have in prior years. But they’re really too delicate for such drastic temperature extremes. They end up waterlogged and tasteless, and I end up tossing them.
No, much better to eat our snowpeas now. The challenge? Mixing my menus so that “peas, please” doesn’t turn into, “Please, no peas!”
This year, we’ve played four variations on the snowpea theme:
- We’ve eaten them raw, of course, paired with an anchovy-spiked dip or a curried dip of mayo, sour cream and cream cheese.
- We’ve blanched them briefly (like, for 30 seconds) and tossed them with linguine and pesto or soba noodles and peanut sauce.
- We’ve braised them, covered, for a mere 8 minutes in butter and olive oil, then tossed them with minced shallots and mint.
Best of all, though, are these baked peas, adapted from California chef Suzanne Goin. I’ve made them two ways — with the buttered breadcrumbs and cheese, and with the salsa verde only. The peas are crunchy and bright green, and the kids love the texture and taste of the breadcrumbs. Best of all, I can use this treatment with almost any vegetable.
Great news as the green beans start bursting:
Pea Gratin (adapted from Suzanne Goin)
Goin uses 2 pounds of summer squash in this recipe, but you can really use any summer vegetable. Simply melt 2-3 tablespoons butter in a saute pan, then add 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs. Remove from heat and mix in 1 cup grated cheese. (I used sharp white cheddar; Goin uses Gruyere with her squash.)
Using a food processor, mix together 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, 1/4 cup mint leaves, 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, 1 garlic clove, 1/2-1 teaspoon anchovy paste, 1 tablespoon drained capers and the juice of half a lemon. Using on/off turns, chop everything finely. With the machine running, pour in olive oil until the mixture starts to slosh. (Truly, “slosh” is the best descriptive. Listen for the sound of the mix to change from solid to something more liquid.) Taste for seasoning. You may want to add a dash of salt or the juice of the other lemon half.
Mix the salsa verde with 3-4 cups fresh snowpeas. Add 1 minced garlic clove and 2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot. (Use finely minced onion if you don’t have a shallot handy.) Stir in the breadcrumb/cheese mixture, then turn everything into a greased casserole dish. Bake for 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven. Serve hot.