The Seasonal Chef

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Did you know one cup of cooked peas contains 134 calories, 9 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein, 101 micrograms of folate and 62 milligrams of magnesium?

These delicious little green morsels are an excellent bargain in one cup. Garden fresh peas will soon be in markets; in the meantime, you might want to consider buying organic peas or extra fancy petit pois from the frozen section of the market.

Here’s how to naturally thicken and add protein to any soup you are making without additional oil or fat: Transfer two cups of your favorite soup from the pot to another saucepan, add one-half cup fresh peas, bring it to a boil, and then transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and purée.

Return the purée to the soup, stir well, and reheat the soup. Or make a pot of pea, prosciutto, carrot and shallot soup for your next dinner party.

Tired of serving peas as a side dish or as the vegetable for dinner? Why not try a medley of chive and mint seasoned fresh sugar snap and snow peas with green peas and edamame? The various textures and shades of green are both attractive and healthy.

Fennel, artichoke, pea, and walnut salad is unique and interesting as a first course or as a side dish.

Bon appetit!

Pea, Prosciutto, Carrot and Shallot Soup

(Serves 4 to 6)2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil2 tablespoons unsalted butter4 large shallots, minced1 clove garlic, mincedSea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste1/2 teaspoon saffron threadsAbout 3 tablespoons minced chervilAbout 8 ounces prosciutto, cut into thin strips2 pounds tender sweet carrots (about 6 cups roughly chopped)2½ cups fresh green peas2 quarts good quality chicken stock, or more if necessary, to barely cover the vegetablesChopped fresh chervil and flat leaf parsley for garnishTo prepare:

Add the olive oil and butter to a heavy soup pot over medium low heat.

When the butter melts, add the shallots and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.

Five minutes after starting the shallots, add the salt, pepper and saffron and sauté until aromatic, about 5 minutes.

Raise the heat to medium, add chervil and prosciutto, and sauté about 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the carrots and peas and slowly cook together for 8 minutes. Add just enough chicken stock to barely cover the vegetables. Bring to a simmer and cook until the carrots and peas are soft and creamy, adding more stock if necessary.

Working in the food processor, purée the soup in batches until the desired texture is reached. Return the soup to the soup pot, taste and correct the seasonings.

Cool to room temperature and refrigerate if serving the next day or reheat until hot. Ladle into warm soup bowls, garnish with chopped chervil and parsley, and serve at once. Can be served cold as well.

Medley of Sugar Snap, Snow and Green Peas and Edamame

(Serves 6)1/2 pound sugar snap peas, strings removed1/2 pound snow peas, strings removed2 cups freshly shelled peas (or defrosted organic extra fancy petit pois)1 cup freshly shelled edamame (or defrosted shelled organic edamame)2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter1 bunch chives, snippedAbout 1/3 cup vegetable or chicken stock1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh mintSea salt and freshly ground black pepper to tasteTo prepare:

Blanch the sugar snap peas in a large pot of boiling water until they are barely cooked, about 2 minutes.

With a slotted spoon or long handled metal strainer, remove snap peas from the boiling water and immediately plunge into a pan of very cold water to stop the cooking process. Once the snap peas are cold, drain well in colander.

Follow the same cooking technique for the snow peas, shelled peas and edamame. The blanching time for the snow peas will be only about one and a half minutes. Both the shelled peas and edamame are blanched when they begin to float in the water.

Remove them from the pot and plunge into very cold water and drain well. Can be done ahead, set aside or refrigerated.

To reheat and serve:

Coat with olive oil and/or butter the bottom of a large skillet over medium high heat. 
Add the chives and sauté briefly, about 30 seconds.

Add the sugar snap and snow peas along with the shelled peas and edamame and stir well to coat all the vegetables.

Add just enough stock to barely cover the bottom of the pan, cover and cook, shaking the pan often, until all the peas are just tender, about 2 minutes. Do not overcook.

Add the fresh mint, salt and pepper to taste and toss well. Taste and correct the seasonings. Transfer to a warm bowl and serve at once.

Fennel, Artichoke, Peas and Walnut Salad

(Serves 4)1 head fresh fennel, fronds removed and reserved, stalks discarded2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or more as needed2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oilSea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste8 to 10 baby artichokes, trimmed and cooked in acidic water, or defrosted artichoke hearts, drained1/2 to 3/4 cup cooked fresh baby peas or defrosted petit pois1/2 small red onion, minced1/2 cup walnut halves, toastedFew drops of white balsamic vinegar, for drizzlingExtra virgin olive oil, for drizzling4 large leaves of red leaf lettuceFennel fronds chopped for garnishTo prepare:

Remove outer fibers of fennel bulbs and trim bulb.

Using a mandolin or Benriner, slice the fennel crosswise, as thin as possible. Immediately toss with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Cut baby artichokes into cubes and toss with fennel slices. Add peas to the vegetables along with minced onion and walnuts. Toss together until coated with the juice and olive oil.

Taste, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle a bit of white balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil over the vegetables to finish dressing the salad.

Place red leaf lettuce on salad plates, mound the salad in the center and garnish with chopped fennel fronds.

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