Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spring Peas

Every year since I was tiny the first signs of spring was the harvesting and freezing of peas and my favorite thing was to eat those sweet little peas raw from the shell.
For us here in the deep South our first peas can be picked as early as the first week of May and here at the farm our peas are ready. As with all foods when they are in abundant supply it's time to think of fun new ways to eat them. One of my favorite peas recipes came from Gourmet several years ago Crostini with Roasted Garlic Pea Puree kind of like a fresh peas hummus this makes a great spring appetizer.

1 head garlic, unpeeled
¼ C olive oil
1 baguette, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 ½ C fresh peas OR a 10-ounce package frozen peas, cooked and drained
a large piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3Tb water

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut 1/2-inch off top of garlic head and put head on sheet of foil. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over garlic and wrap tightly in foil. Roast garlic in middle of oven until very soft, 30 to 40 minutes, and cool.
While garlic is cooling, arrange baguette slices in one layer on a large baking sheet and brush lightly on each side with additional oil. Bake slices in middle of oven until crisp and pale golden, 5 to 10 minutes, and transfer to rack.
Squeeze roasted garlic from head into a food processor add peas, cheese lemon juice and 1Tb olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Blend pea mixture until smooth adjusting consistency with water 1 TB at a time.
Spread toasts with about 1 heaping tablespoon pea purée on each toast and top with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. Drizzle with remaining oil.
yield: Makes about 24 crostini

When buying peas choose fresh peas with crisp, smooth, glossy, bright green pods. Avoid any that are wilted, dried, puffy or blemished. For the sweetest flavor, try to purchase them from a farmers market. Plan on using fresh peas as soon as possible after purchase as their natural sugars will convert to starch soon after picking. Peas will stay fresh in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper for 3-4 days but don't expect them to keep their characteristic sweetness for more than a day.

Shell the peas just before cooking to prevent them from drying out. Working over a large bowl, squeeze the pod and press your thumb against the seam to split it open. Continuing the same movement, sweep your thumb down along the inside of the pod to pop out the peas.
To preserve the sweetness of your fresh peas blanch them in boiling water until they turn bright green about 1minute, remove from the hot water and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. At this point they are ready to use in your favorite recipe or put into zip lock bags to freeze for a bit of spring next winter.

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