Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fresh Peas: A Springtime Indulgence

orange spiked peas with dill

Peas are playing hard to get this spring in San Diego. For the past several weeks, I have been seeking them out, to no avail. Then a couple of weeks ago at the Little Italy Mercato, I spied some. Elated, I dropped the potatoes I was buying, shoved my bags into Jeff's already overburdened arms, with an, "I'm sorry, Babe, but it's fresh peas!" and rushed over to them. I grabbed a bag, eagerly filled it until it bulged, then handed it to the farmer. I was envisioning the bowls of warm minted peas, risotto with peas and pancetta, and farro with peas and artichokes I would soon be eating, when I was interrupted by the farmer.

"$16 dollars, please," she said.

Assuming I had misheard her, I said, "Six dollars?"

"No," she replied, "Six-TEEN dollars," and smiled broadly at me. "They're nine dollars a pound."

Nine dollars a pound? Last year, they were $3.99 a pound. No kidding. Look at the sign below.

fresh English peas from Hillcrest farmers' market in San Diego

I hesitated. Suddenly my jubilation about eating spring peas was tempered with guilt. Should I really pay sixteen dollars for a bag of peas? I gazed at the cheerful, plump little darlings and rolled the bag over my palms, enjoying the feeling of their marble-like smoothness. That's when I realized, hey, these are already shelled.

As if reading my mind, the farmer added, "They're more money, but they're already shelled. It's easier for you." She flashed me another broad, toothy smile. Well, I'll get three or four meals out of them, I thought.

I smiled back and handed her a twenty dollar bill.

Orange Spiked Peas with Dill
Makes 6 side servings
Printable recipe.

3 cups shelled fresh English peas
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
Zest of 1/2 orange (about 2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons orange juice, preferably fresh squeezed
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add peas and cook for 1 minute, stirring to coat with butter. Add ginger, orange zest and juice, and salt and black pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring a few times, until cooked through and just slightly wrinkled. You want them al dente, not mushy. Turn off heat, and stir in fresh dill.

Serve atop cooked couscous, quinoa or brown rice with sauteed tofu or shrimp.

You might also enjoy these fresh peas recipes:
Minted Fresh Peas recipe from Leite's Culinaria
Barley Risotto with Peas recipe from Guilty Kitchen
Warm Three Pea and Radish Salad recipe from Food Blogga
Pasta with Peas, Prosciutto, and Parmesan recipe from Blue Kitchen
Lemony Pasta with Fresh Peas, Ricotta, and Mint recipe from Food Blogga
Spring Frittata with Peas, Leeks, and Zucchini recipe from Ms. Adventures in Italy
Springtime Farro with Baby Artichokes, Mushrooms, and Peas recipe from Food Blogga