Fresh Peas with Mint

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Anyone who watched last season of “Top Chef” will remember Carla’s pea dish. She wowed the judges with her side of fresh peas, purchased from Whole Foods, cooked–according to this blog (the Bravo recipe site is too hard to navigate)–with tarragon, butter and lemon thyme.

Inspired by Carla (who, by personality alone, should’ve won the show), I purchased fresh peas the other day at the farmer’s market. But would my peas have secured me a place in the Top Chef Finale? I’m not quite sure.

Here’s what the peas look like before leaving their pods:

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It is, indeed, a relaxing thing to do to put some music on, sit down at your kitchen table, and shell your fresh peas. Some music to conisder: Regina Spektor’s new CD “Far,” anything by Astrud Gilberto, Paul Simon’s “Surprise,” Wilco’s “Sky Blue Sky.” Once your peas are shelled, they will look like this:

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Now you want to have a pot of water boiling (maybe I should’ve told you that earlier) and you want to add a large amount of salt to that water. Drop your peas in:

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You don’t want them in there for too long: one recipe says, “until the water comes back to a boil.”

So while you’re waiting for that to happen, make an ice bath. Just get a big bowl, add ice and cold water, and here’s an Anne Burrell trick: salt the ice water! “Season every step of the way,” says the spiky haired chef.

When the hot water’s at a boil again, get a spider and lift the peas into the salted ice bath:

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After they cool down, put them in a strainer and chop some mint:

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After that, it’s easy peasy peas. Just heat some butter–about 3 Tbs–in a non-stick skillet. When it’s melted, but not too crazy hot, add your peas (don’t worry if they’re wet, the water will help the butter stick to the peas):

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Add salt and pepper, toss those peas around, and cook and taste taste taste until you like the way they taste. That’s really the only way to tell if they’re done: if they’re done to your taste. (I cooked mine for about 3 to 4 minutes.) At the very end, add the fresh mint.

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And that’s it: beautiful fresh peas with mint.

Are they Carla-worthy? I’m afraid it all comes down to the peas. When I bought these peas at the farmer’s market, I snuck a taste to see if they were sweet. The pea that I tasted was sweet.

But when I got home and shelled them, some of the peas were really starchy. And by the time they were all cooked and served, I think the starchy peas dominated. Which is not to say they didn’t taste good–you’ll notice a marked difference between fresh peas like this, even if they are starchy, and the frozen peas you’re used to–but it is to say that I was sightly, only slightly, disappointed.

They look pretty, though, don’t they? And they’re good for you, right? So give fresh peas a try, y’all: try to find sweeter ones and if you do, invite me over to try them. Let’s give peas a chance.

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