Lettuces and peas are the early pleasures of Spring, slipping smoothly into summer’s first strawberry crop. It should make perfect sense to combine them in cookery. If you’re lucky enough to have a plethora of fresh herbs, flip a few handfuls of bright green flat leaf parsley or purple basil and cheerful chopped chives into a mix of mache, brilliant barely cooked baby peas and lush slices of scarlet strawberries. Toss with your favorite flavored oil and a dash of lemon juice, or a complementary tasty vinegar.
If you’re a connoisseur of Greek salad, this is the season to be bold with strawberries and peas. Quarter the rinsed and dried berries; briskly boil the peas for just a moment (drain and chill). Mix up a merry mélange of greens (how about a few stuffed grape leaves?), cucumber, ripe tomato, some toothsome varieties of black olives, the peas and strawberries. Splash on fresh lemon juice, generously crumble a rich local feta cheese over all, and douse with a deeply sensuous savory oil. A few mint leaves certainly won’t hurt, either! Eat up!
Fresh peas contain an unusual combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, omega 3 fatty acid, beta-carotene and potent vitamin E. They help control blood sugar, thus decreasing the risk of type-2 diabetes and gastric cancer. One of the earliest legumes in cultivation, peas have been grown in most climate zones since humans in Central Asia and the Middle East recognized them as edible. A big plus for peas is that they are an environmentally friendly “Green” green, replenishing nitrogen and nutrients in the soil in which they’re grown. Go Peas!
Fourth of July is a fine time to enjoy an American alternative to English Mushy Peas, the mature marrowfat peas that are soaked overnight and boiled with sugar and salt until soft and lumpy, most often served with Fish ‘n’ Chips. Make Smashed Peas to go with fish or chicken during grill season for a healthy and unique side.
1 lb. fresh peas, hulled (or 1 lb. frozen peas)
4 T. good butter, no substitutes
¼ c. water
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 Tsp. minced mint
Coarse salt and cracked pepper
Cook the peas in the water with 2 T. butter until peas are soft, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove pot from heat. Using a potato masher, smash the peas. Incorporate the remaining butter, the lemon juice, mint and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
Easy Peasy Mac ‘n Cheese Salad
1 lb. elbow pasta
1 lb. sugar snap peas, rinsed, tipped
1-1/2 quarts (about 1-1/2 lbs.) deli cheese salad (usually several kinds of cheeses; be sure it contains some Pepper Jack. If it doesn’t, reduce the amount of cheese salad by ¼ lb. and add 4-6 oz. of cubed Pepper Jack cheese.)
3-4 med-large firm ripe red tomatoes, cut into 1” dice, plus 1 small firm ripe tomato cubed, for garnish
2 stalks celery, diced
1 T. fresh basil, minced plus several leaves for garnish
1 small Spanish (red) onion, minced
6 radishes, sliced plus 2 radishes sliced or diced for garnish
6-8 each black and green pimiento-stuffed olives, sliced
1 green chili pepper, cored, seeds discarded, minced*
About ½ c., more or less, Italian dressing
Salt and Pepper
Cook the elbow macaroni according to package directions, adding the peas about 2 minutes prior to end of cooking.
Drain mac and peas well; return to cooking pot while still hot.
Add the cheese salad (including vegetables and dressing, if any) to the hot mac and peas and stir continuously until the cheese is melted and coats the pasta and peas.
Set aside to cool while preparing the balance of the ingredients.
Mix the mac/peas/cheese, breaking up any clumps.
Add all other ingredients except those reserved for garnishes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Pile onto a platter and garnish.
Serve at room temperature.
This salad can be refrigerated (covered) for a day or overnight, but bring it to room temperature before serving.
*Use two chili peppers if you want a spicier salad.