May Pea Manna: Recipes for Fresh Spring Peas


May Pea Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 cups blanched and chilled May peas or frozen green peas, thawed
  • zest of one organic lemon
  • juice of half of same lemon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
  • big drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Outer Banks SeaSalt

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and purée. Spoon dip into bowl and chill for at least one hour. Serve with spicy lentil chips or as a side for just about anything. This is great to keep in the fridge for random snacking.

May Peas with Butter

One of the best ways to enjoy freshly picked peas is straight up English style: boiled, drained, then tossed with way too much real butter and a sprinkling of sea salt. Add a few bits of torn mint if you are feeling cheeky.

Another internationally-loved tradition is the pairing of pork and peas. The sweet burst of the tiny May pea is the perfect enhancement to salty cured products like serrano ham, country ham, and pancetta.

May Peas with Gnocchi, Pancetta and Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 lb high-quality store bought gnocchi, (or make it yourself! Recipe )
  • ½ lb diced pancetta
  • ½ pound shelled May peas, blanched and cooled
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • sea salt

Directions

  1. Heat two quarts water to boil in medium sized pot.
  2. In large, dry, cast iron skillet, cook pancetta over medium heat until fat is rendered and pork is crispy.
  3. Turn off the fire and use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta and place on paper towel to drain.
  4. Return heat to medium and add peas to the pan, stirring to coat. You can also give the pan a little shake to move everything around. When the peas are hot, add cream and bring to simmer.
  5. Reduce cream by half, lower the fire and whisk in butter.
  6. Add cooked gnocchi drained directly from hot cooking water to the pan full of creamy peas.
  7. Swirl in the gnocchi and add a generous pinch of sea salt.
  8. Taste for seasoning.
  9. Serve as an elegant first course or as a side for something fabulous, like garlic grilled soft-shell crabs.

Time to start replenishing the freezer.

If you want to enjoy May peas, also known as green or English peas, all year, the key is to buy the freshest peas available and put them up as soon as possible. Choose the pods that are bright and firm and filled with crisp, yet tender and sweet peas. Don’t select soft, spotted or dried, leathery pods. Make sure you save time to put these up as soon as you get them home. Your efforts will be rewarded next winter when you pull a bag from the freezer.

The first step is to remove the peas from the pod. There are many techniques for this practice—called hulling—and with practice you will find your groove. Next, blanch the peas. To do this, boil a large pot of salted water and drop in the peas for about two minutes. That’s it. Remove the peas and cool immediately in ice water for about the same amount of time, two minutes, and drain the peas thoroughly. Place the peas in freezer bags and remove the air to prevent drying and freezer burn. These should be fine until next spring, when you can start afresh.

Do keep in mind that once picked, the high sugar content of a May pea will diminish. Older peas become a bit starchy and are much less sweet. Select the medium size pods rather than larger, thick-skinned ones, which usually have a bit more age; a taste test is a great indicator of quality. Do consume them within a day or two of purchase or pop them in freeze.

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