Oh, peas. How I love thee! Call me crazy, but I think that peas make the top of my list of favorite vegetables ever of all time (while banana squash lands on the complete opposite end of that spectrum). My friends always laugh at me because whenever I'm at the salad bar, I always end up with more peas on my plate than actual leafy greens. It's the best part of a salad bar: all-you-can-eat peas!
So imagine my delight at the wealth of fresh peas at the farmers' markets lately! Oh, there's nothing like fresh peas--the special snap and crispness that they have in them beats the frozen variety that I have to suffer through the rest of the year (though I do love those, too, when I have no other choice). I don't even mind peeling them one pod at a time. It's actually quite a therapeutic process for me to pop open each pod and run my fingers down the middle to scrape out all of the magical peas inside. Like peeling pomelos, another favorite quirky pastime of mine. (btw--does anyone know a good use for the pods besides the compost bin? It always seems like such a waste!)
Anyways, I know that this is a dessert blog and all, but I hope that you all don't mind if I take up one post for a little tribute to the wonderful vegetable-love-of-my-life. There was the possibility of making fresh pea ice cream (via David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop), but really, when it comes to the preparation of fresh spring peas, I like to keep things as simple and as uncomplicated as possible, because these little beauties stand on their own so incredibly well.
About as complicated as I'm willing to get is this fresh pea and mint spaghetti. Basically, peas tossed in butter with al dente spaghetti, sautéed spring onions, and refreshing mint leaves, and sprinkled with really good Parmigiano Reggiano. Everything else in this dish here really just serves the purpose of showcasing the center-peas. (haha--get it? center-peas = centerpiece? okay, okay, bad puns aside...)
Because of the incredible simplicity of this dish, it's really important to start with excellent raw ingredients: freshly made pasta (none of that dry stuff, if possible!), fresh peas and mint and spring onions, good butter and olive oil, and a nice, robust block of parmesan cheese. All together, the freshness and snap of the peas and mint add a surprising sweetness to the pasta, with the parmesan cheese perfectly complementing and off-setting the sweetness-- the end result is a spaghetti that is seriously layered with all of these different flavors--from refreshingly crisp to deeply savory--that come together in a deliciously fulfilling spring-summertime lunch. (And quite possibly one of the healthiest servings I'll ever present here on this blog! ;-P)
Alright, thanks for indulging me and my love for peas! It's times like these that make me so thankful to live in a city with two farmers' markets on two consecutive days so that when I unexpectedly polish off my pea-stash after the first day (oops!), I can still go and re-stock up for the week ahead the next day. Though, it would be even nicer if I had an endless supply of fresh peas every day....
Read on for recipe...
Peas and Mint Spaghetti
makes enough for 2
spaghetti, two servings (preferably fresh)
2-4 cups peas, freshly peeled
4 small spring onions, sliced
large handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped or torn into strips
pepper, freshly ground
Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
1. Cook the spaghetti until al dente. Toss with olive oil and set aside.
2. Steam the peas for 2 minutes until they turn bright green. Set aside.
3. In a saute pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the onions, a dash of salt, and cook until the onions soften and look translucent.
4. Add the prepared spaghetti and peas to the onions and toss together, adding a bit of oil if necessary. Turn of the heat, toss in mint leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Top generously with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano.