Peas Gone Wild

Besides being an unexpectedly delicious summer “side”, this “pea dish” is really the story of lettuce. As anyone who’s been reading along for a while knows, my “What To Cook” decision-making-process is best described as “First In First Out” – whatever’s been in there the longest, is at the front of the line for a fridge exit.  Limp lettuce is not a sign that it should be tossed, it’s a sign that it’s time for the heat – when the salad days are over, the saute days are just beginning (a place where limp behavior’s encouraged). Unless there is algae growing on the leaves, it’s not even near its life’s end (and if the algae is minimal – tear it off.)

What I like about cooking with lettuce is, a) no one expects it and b) because it shrivels down to nothing, it plays a very subtle role in any dish, letting the other ingredients be the stars.  In this one it lets the peas be the main attraction.  It’s really there for textural and visual support.

The other key ingredients in the dish above (besides the peas, and lettuce) are capers and thyme. The capers bring a salty, briny balance to the sweet peas and onion, and the thyme adds a taste of summer – feel free to use mint instead, it’s a classic with peas, which is why is sort of fun to mix it up and use thyme.

As for the peas themselves (sometimes called English Shelling Peas, and not to be confused with snap peas with edible shells) – there is something highly satisfying about releasing the little  balls from the womb. You pop off the head of the pod, pull back the string, pry open the pouch and push them down the track into the bowl. It’s a task best done with a partner on a summer day, even if that partner’s a glass of rosé. If you choose to skip the snapping, pushing part, or can’t find them at a market, buy the little frozen French peas, as they tend to get less mushy when cooked than “standard” peas, and I think have more flavor.

Get the recipe.

The  carcases and the innards.

This is where the lettuce lived.

This would make a great dish for an Independence Day buffet, and what could be more appropriate on July 4th than liberating English subjects.

Any pea recipes to share?  Love them or hate them?  Used to hate them but found a way to love like them?

Related Posts
Give Peas A Chance (Another fab pea recipe)
Arugula With Roasted Radishes and Goat Cheese (The radish is another veg not always given respect.)

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  • Lisa

    Oh how I love peas in spring. What a beautiful post on peas! 

    My Lettuce Eat Peas Soup is similar to yours only without the capers. Hmmnn….curious now I’ll have to try it with capers.

    Here it is:

    Pass the peas, if you please!

    • Michelle Madden

      Outstanding recipe name.

  • Lauramychal

    I find it interesting coming to know certain veggies I know well raw used in cooking. Lettuce is never something I’d think to cook, but I am warming up to the idea..ha no pun intended. I also never thought to cook cucumbers but have seen that done as well. It tastes like a more watery zucchini. I think Asian dishes most commonly cook it. Anything else that would be surprising to know gets cooked? I thought avocados weren’t to be cooked either, but found a recipe for a breaded and fried avo!

  • Bethany Sires

    I think that is one the prettiest pictures of peas that I’ve ever seen. They are so green and vibrant in color. I’m jealous I wish I had a sample of your pea dish. :-/

    • Michelle Madden

      Thanks ! Forget the sampling, just dive in and make it !!

  • Rivki Locker

    I have never cooked with lettuce! It just seems ‘wrong’ to me! But you have me convinced. I’m going to have to try this dish. 

  • Sarah Landis

    Looks yummy! Cooking lettuce is an old New England tradition, now mostly out of favor, but I sometimes do it too when I have a ton in the garden and it is beginning to bolt. 

    I grow my own peas, and I always seem to let some grow a little too long, so I make a nice fresh pea soup:Chop 1 yellow onion finely and saute until very soft in olive oil or butter. Add 3-4 peeled and chopped carrots and 2 stalks of celery, chopped, salt and white pepper to taste. Add water to cover and cook until getting soft, then add about 1 lb. fresh peas (frozen will work too) and cook about 5 more minutes. Take it off the heat and add some parsley or mint if you like. Then puree. I use an immersion blender, otherwise you have to let it cool. This was one of my baby’s first foods and it’s a hit with the whole family. 

    • Michelle Madden

      Lucky baby!!

    • Sharirossmann

      Try leaving the salt and pepper out. Baby not only won’t miss it but will grow up with a more subtle palette appreciating the real taste of foods.  (The salt is really for the adults who are accustomed to it.  Try it weaning yourself off it and you will be amazed how many more flavors you will find.)

  • Ann McElfresh

    Nicely done!  I like the “first in first out” rule!

  • Anonymous

    I just made a risotto with artichoke hearts, fresh green peas and verjuice. Really good combination of flavours as well as textures. I love how fresh peas pop their flavour when you bite them. Also, it was great to read your little comment conversation about vegetable we forget to cook. Reminded me how much I love steamed radishes and buttered cucumber!

  • Laura Winger

    God lord, I just love your blog!
    I’d never really tried peas until two summers ago at the farmers market when I inexplicably bought more than a pound at a go. During the shelling I popped a raw pea into my mouth which led to a drastic reduction of my pile before I even started cooking. Once I did, though, I boiled some baby potatoes and threw in a few handfuls of peas at the end. Dumped in a lot of butter, some milk and a few pinches of some sea salt I bought while in Brittany. The salt is the key to this, I think. I gave it all a half-hearted mash and ended up eating it all in two sittings.
    I really enjoy thinking about all the foods that I’ve come to love the older I get and peas are up at the top of that list. Thanks for the post. Thanks for ALL the posts.

    • Michelle Madden

      You are so sweet to say so !   It’s funny that you mentioned that sea salt from Brittany — I was there last summer and their salts are divine!  I brought a massive bag back and used it all up by Xmas time … lesson learned: you can never have enough good salt.

  • Anonymous

    1 of my faves for ‘English’ peas is Chicken Vesuvio, oregano-seasoned chicken, browned potatoes, peas, garlic & parsley  & of course, hot pepper flakes, oven-braised  @ very high temperature.

    For a cooler dish, I love to add thawed/uncooked frozen peas to couscous salad w/ chopped apples & walnuts.

    I grow snap peas every year & rarely have enough of a harvest to cook – they almost all get eaten right off the vines.

    • Lisa

      Chicken Vesuvio sounds delish!

  • Carmels

    This inspired me to get into my fridge and make what was available: peas, favas & kale. I simmered the kale in a little water and when softened added the peas & kale with some butter and a sprinkling of some veg broth, smoked sea salt and a grind of pepper. Over some rice pasta – yum!
    p.s. Did you know that some, though rare, folks have an allergic reaction to favas? Mostly of Middle Eastern descent I believe – so must be mindful when offering favas.

    • Michelle Madden

      Never heard of that, but there are so many varied allergies, I’m not surprised! And that pasta dish sounds divine!!!