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.
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?
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