It’s time for English Peas
My best memory of English peas is of shelling them on a sunny day in the courtyard of a country house in France. Our friend Carol, owner of the house, lives in a small town outside of Bordeaux.
I don’t remember what she did with the peas, but the simple act of tearing apart the pods and coaxing out the little green jewels inside, while sitting companionably, catching up on family news, was one my most delightful memories of that vacation trip.
For me, the problem with buying fresh peas is that I can’t resist popping them I my mouth while shelling them, reducing the yield before I even begin to cook. So, I make sure to buy more than I need. As I shell them, it’s one for me, and one for the pot!
I think of English peas as a special treat, so I look for ways to make them the star of the meal, as in the appetizer below. Once assembled, this appetizer needs to be consumed before the crostini get soggy.
One way to hold them for longer is to serve these appetizers unconstructed—that is, set out the component parts and let guests assemble their own. Arrange a tray with a bowl of English Pea Spread, a bowl of mint and one of feta, and a dish of pepper with a little spoon, along with a basket of crostini.
English peas are available right now, through early summer. It’s a short season so enjoy them while you can.
English Pea Spread on Crostini
1¼ cups shelled peas (about 1 pound pods) (see note)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus additional olive oil for drizzling
1½ teaspoons freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
Kosher salt (at least ¼ teaspoon)
1 small garlic clove, put through a garlic press
¼ teaspoon grated lemon peel
About ¼ cup julienned mint leaves (cut in thin strips)
About ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
Aleppo pepper or freshly ground black pepper
Steam peas in a steamer basket until tender, abot 2 minutes. Or cook peas in an inch of boiling salted water. Drain peas and put in a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain again when peas are cool.
In the bowl of a food processor, add peas and pulse a few times to break up peas; add oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic and pulse until the mixture forms a paste—it should be chunky with small bits of peas still visible. Stir in lemon peel. Taste and add more salt, if needed.
Dollop a small mound of pea spread on each crostini, sprinkle with mint leaves and cheese and dribble a few drops of olive oil on top of each toast. Top with a sprinkling of pepper. Serve immediately.
Makes about ¾ cup spread, about enough for 20 crostini.
- You can make this spread with frozen peas. Cook frozen peas following package directions, just until tender.
- If you use regular lemon juice, start with 1 teaspoon and taste. Meyer lemon is milder in flavor than regular lemon.
- To julienne mint leaves, pluck leaves off stems, stack several leaves, roll together lengthwise, cigar fashion, and slice crosswise to form thin strips.
Makes 12 crostini.
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