June 17, 2010

minty peas & scapes

Right off the bat, I must apologize to the peas, because this photograph doesn’t quite do them justice. Their vibrant greenness was amazing. But it was 9 pm, and without the benefit of natural light (my camera’s flash on peas = scary, Nickelodeon-goo green), and relying on a compact fluorescent bulb, this was the best I could do.

Now, to redeem myself -- I did right by these peas in the skillet. Cooked quickly with garlic scapes, then glazed with butter and tossed with fresh mint, I am declaring these the best peas ever.

Yesterday was one of those dizzying early summer greenmarket days where you just don't know where to begin. Local cherries and strawberries. Fresh garlic, garlic scapes, scallions, and spring onions. All manner of leafy greens and herbs. The legumes were out in full force, too -- fava beans, shell peas, sugar snaps, and string beans, looking all fresh and bouncy. And more. I wanted them all! After surveying the scene, I gathered a generous pile of shell peas, a tangle of garlic scapes, young spring garlic, a big bunch of fresh mint, juicy local strawberries, fennel, and slender, pale green cucumbers (which became my mid-afternoon snack, sprinkled with sea salt). I was tempted to collect even more as I travelled from stall to stall, but managed to keep in mind that my ever-growing bag would need to journey with me from my midtown east office building, across town to an acupuncture appointment near Columbus Circle, and finally uptown via the M5 to our ultimate destination, my tiny upper west side kitchen(ette). So I controlled myself. No kohlrabi or turnips this time (sigh).

I had my tastebuds set on peas with mint for dinner. On the way home I stopped at whole foods and picked up a rotisserie chicken and Yukon golds (as a midweek staple, rotisserie chicken + a couple of easy homemade sides never fails). Walking through the front door, I dropped the bags and cranked up the oven (and the air conditioner) in preparation for my favorite rosemary oven fries.*

I poured a glass of crisp sauvignon blanc and shifted my attention to shelling peas. Turns out that shelling peas is a very Zen practice; it requires a surprising degree of mindfulness to get the peas into the bowl rather than rolling across the counter and onto the floor. My new meditation technique. I only lost a few. The peas were huge, and it crossed my mind that they might be overly starchy (I’ve been conditioned to believe that the bigger the pea, the starchier the pea.) But maybe that’s not true at all, or possibly these peas had never heard about this rule, or perhaps it was the magic of the cast-iron. After their sauté-steam with caramelized garlic scapes and a toss with butter and fresh mint, the peas were sweet and tender, without any trace of mealiness, mushiness, or weird starchiness. Peas of perfection, they were.

So ... perfect peas, crispy, golden-brown potatoes, and roast chicken the cheater’s way** -- they all came together for a pretty darn good weeknight dinner. For dessert, the best ginger cookies ever (courtesy of my mom) and fresh mint tea. I went to bed thinking I just might make it to the weekend after all.

On a completely unrelated note, I’m taking a survey. Move to Brooklyn or Maine? You see, I have this silly need for natural light in my living space, something I apparently cannot afford in Manhattan. But I might be able to get some in Brooklyn. Or in Maine. What do you think?!? Any Mainers out there? I just returned from a week in Ogunquit, and I’m already in Maine withdrawal. Help!

*Recipe coming soon - ridiculously simple and they always turn out fabulous. I swear I'd take them over the deep-fried variety any day, and they require very little oil.

**Okay, I would have loved to make Thomas Keller’s Favorite Roast Chicken because it is the most amazing roast chicken ever, but did I mention it was Wednesday night? And a girl’s gotta have her acupuncture!

minty peas and garlic scapes

• Extra virgin olive oil
• Unsalted butter
• 4 garlic scapes, chopped (about 1/2 cup) (could also substitute 1-2 chopped shallots)
• 2 cups freshly shelled peas (about 4 to 5 cups unshelled) (or frozen peas; not canned, though – aaahhh, scary!)
• 3 Tbsp chopped mint leaves
• Sea salt

1. Heat 1 Tbsp oil and 1Tbsp butter in a skillet over medium heat. When butter stops foaming, add garlic scapes and a pinch of salt, and cook until they are tender and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
2. Add peas to the pan, stirring to combine. Add a little water (1 to 2 Tbsp), cover, and steam until peas are tender but not mushy, and still bright green – 3 to 5 minutes. Taste a couple of peas, and if they are still starchy, cook for a few more minutes.
3. Uncover pan and cook for another minute or so, to allow any remaining water to evaporate. Turn off heat and stir in 1 Tbsp butter and mint. Season to taste with salt.


  1. I'm down with the peas and mint combo! Not sure about the Brooklyn and Maine dilemma. It would depend on the culinary offerings of each : )

  2. that sounds really good!
    My parents grow tons of garlic in their big country garden... I should go take some and try making this!

  3. Move to Brooklyn, THEN Maine. You know this makes sense.

  4. Great post! My vote is for Brooklyn, but Maine is intriguing.

  5. Well, it seems Brooklyn is ahead by a nose!

    Hi Lentil Breakdown -- I think Brooklyn wins for best culinary offerings these days, if only by virtue of the fact that everything's packed into a smaller area.

    Lady Grey - wow that homegrown garlic must be amazing! The purplish garlic I buy at the greenmarket is so far superior to what's available at the grocery store. Try harvesting some scapes some time!

    Keith: okay, I'll admit your suggestion makes sense. Perhaps I'm not ready to get snowed in for the winter just yet. ;)

    Thanks, Tracy! I guess I could live in BK and vacation in Maine, too -- that would work.

  6. Wish we had this variety of sweet peas here - what we get is out of a can. Sounds delicious. would the frozen variety work?

  7. I so love peas , mint & garlic scapes. I so love this easy yet so tasty dish!

    I grow my own garlic scapes!! There is nothing better that it!

  8. Hi Nancy, I really like this pea recipe---simple, and with just the right pairings of mint and scapes. Fresh as it gets!

    Shelling peas, stringing beans, peeling potatoes---I love all these "mindless-mindful" practices.

    re:Maine vs. Brooklyn---live in BK, vacation in Maine is my vote!

  9. Ohhh, SO delicious!! I'd forgotten how much I love minty peas! Thank you for reminding me. :-)