Monday, April 25, 2011

Give Peas a Chance

I remember going to the farmer's market as a teenager, and thinking it was pretty awesome. I loved looking at all the fresh fruits and vegetables, honeys, candied nuts, and homemade jams. The market has changed a bit from what I remember, and not its not uncommon to see fresh pastas and ethnic foods being offered. Which I think is absolutely wonderful. If I see one it is really quite hard for me to keep driving. I just want to stop and see what they have. When visiting Seattle a little while ago, I visited theirs. Stunning. I adored it. I seriously considered moving there. Not only is there a fantastic farmer's market that has everything, and I mean everything (if you have never been it encompasses several blocks), but also there are coffee shops on every corner, the ocean is right there, and the weather is gorgeous!
I remember, though, when visiting a farmer's market a few years ago, when the realization hit me that the foodstuffs displayed there were not organic. Sure, they were local, but for some reason I had it in my mind that all of the purveyors at the farmer's market were only supplying local, organic items. I admit the whole idea lost some of its luster. I began to realize that my best bet for local and organic was growing it myself, unless I was willing to auction off the last of our furniture and put the kids up for sale. I love gardening, so that's not really an issue. The last few years I was able to get a good-sized garden going, and managed to eat only the vegetables produced therein for most of the summer (except for a few special items).
During this process, I discovered one of the most delicious vegetables to eat fresh are peas. They are amazing when you take them straight from the garden and toss them in some butter. Now, before you shut down and put the blinders up, think about the peas you have eaten. I have said it before and I will say it again, I am a firm believer that most people don't like certain veggies because they didn't like the way they were prepared as a child. Peas are another vegetable that gets a bad rap. I don't like canned peas, but frozen peas can be found  year round, for just a about a buck and a half, or less, and they are super quick and easy to prepare. I always have at least one bag in my freezer (they also double as quick ice packs) and reach for them when I am in a rush. We don't eat them that often, because I try to serve fresh vegetables for most meals, but they are definitely handy.
Peas are absolutely delicious with mint. If you have never had it you are probably thinking to yourself right now, "Are you sure?" I'm sure. Not a handful, just chiffonade a few leaves and toss them in at the end for a subtle flavor. Amazing. Most of us have an annoying spearmint plant taking over a portion of our back yard, you can always go that route, or just pick up a small bunch at the grocery store.
I start by sauteing some finely chopped shallots in butter until they are soft, if you don't have shallots, you can substitute another onion. Whey they are soft, throw in the peas, toss them around in the buttery, oniony sauce, sprinkle on some salt and fresh cracked pepper. Put a lid on for about 5 minutes, throw in the mint and toss it around again. Pretty easy. Pretty good.
Give peas a chance.

Spring peas
Serves 6

2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 a shallot, finely chopped
1 1-lb bag frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste
about 10 mint leaves, thinly sliced

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute shallot until translucent. Add peas. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover. Cook for about five minutes, or until peas are just warmed through. Add mint leaves and toss again. Serve immediately.

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