Discovering: Fresh Peas

I've always had a rocky relationship with peas. As a kid, I'd push the frozen variety around on my plate until they were cold and clammy, then eat a few and call it a day. I finally decided to give fresh peas a try -- here's some recipe inspiration.
By: Liz Gray

I've always had a rocky relationship with peas. As a kid, I'd push the frozen variety around on my plate until they were cold and clammy, then eat a few and call it a day.

But even as a pea skeptic, I suspected the fresh ones would be different. So when I came across them at the farmers' market, I knew it was destiny. Pea pods in hand, I headed home to widen my recipe repertoire.

My recipe box is completely devoid of pea-related recipes (see above pea paranoia), so a little investigation was in order. And, it had to happen fast -- the peas were sweet, crisp and nothing like the raisin-like, wrinkly frozen variety, and they tasted great raw. So great, in fact, that my supply was starting to dwindle. Oh no! Focus.

Deb over at Smitten Kitchen (who is also not a pea lover) made a tempting-looking pea-studded pasta salad with a red pepper vinaigrette filling in for the usual oozy mayo dressing. Plus, the peas rest inside the shell-shaped pasta like they're still in their pods -- so cute!

Fresh peas have a great sweetness, and Heidi at 101 Cookbooks dresses her Fresh Pea Salad with a mint-date dressing to accentuate the sweet notes even more. This bright salad looks like the perfect light lunch.

Peas plus pasta also sounded very tempting, like this Tagliatelle with Fresh Peas and Lemon from Bill Granger.

Or, why not put them atop toast like La Tartine Gourmande does? This bright green goat cheese-scallion mixture looks beautiful (and delicious) with vibrant peas and radishes scattered on top.

Our own Aida Mollenkamp braises peas with chicken broth and butter lettuce (if you've never tried it cooked, it's surprisingly amazing) and finishes it off with creamy Greek yogurt.

So what did I end up making? I had pasta. I had peas. I had lettuce. I sautéed the peas with shallots à la this Mark Bittman recipe, then tossed with pasta and topped it with a little crispy Spanish ham. The verdict? Even the semi-painful shelling process (emotionally, not physically) was worth it -- consider me converted.

What's your take on peas: okay, no way or all-out pea lover?
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