Vail Simply Seasonal: Shell and simmer some English Peas | VailDaily.com

Vail Simply Seasonal: Shell and simmer some English Peas

Sue Barham
Simply Seasonal
Vail, CO Colorado

Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado -The Saturday morning visit to the Edwards Farmers Market is a ritual. I purchase some staples there, but can always be convinced to try something new, too. I was drawn to a big bin of sugar snap peas (a staple) and my husband pointed to the next bin – English peas.

I’m a fan of English Peas but my experience is limited to the frozen or canned varieties. So looking at fresh peas in the pods was a little intimidating. The sign clearly said “you must take these out of the shell.”

I was intrigued. And I bought a pound of peas.

I found myself alone in the house when it was time to prepare dinner. I enthusiastically started in on the peas. Snap off the end, crackle the seam, plunk the peas into a bowl. At first it was therapeutic, a nice rhythm. The peas in their pods were pleasantly symmetrical, a neat line attached to the seam as if by clothespins. After 10 minutes I realized there was about two tablespoons of peas in the bowl. Quick math told me to pick up the pace.

The shelled peas were simply simmered, then tossed with butter, salt and pepper. Dinner was served and I savored my scant portion of peas. The texture was tender and creamy, the taste, divine. My husband gobbled them up, mindless of the TLC that went into preparation. Will I make them again? Absolutely, but with a new tactic. I can now see why peas are a natural addition to salads, pasta dishes and casseroles. Great flavor, half the work.

Risotto with fresh peas

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3 cups chicken stock

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/3 cup diced onions

1 cup Arborio rice

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt to taste

freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup freshly shelled peas

Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep hot over low heat. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a separate medium-sized pot. Add the onion and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onion turns translucent. Add the rice to the onion mixture and stir. Turn the heat to low, add about 1 cup of the hot stock to the rice mixture, and stir slowly until the stock is absorbed. Continue to add the stock 1 cup at a time, stirring slowly, letting the rice absorb the stock before adding more. While the risotto is cooking, blanch the peas in boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Drain. The risotto is cooked when it is creamy on the outside and slightly firm (al dente) in the center. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and half of the peas. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the risotto is too thick, add a little more stock until it becomes creamy. Divide the risotto into serving dishes and sprinkle with the remaining peas. Serves 4.

Bow ties with peas, lemon and mint

1/3 cup finely chopped shallot

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth

3/4 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup cooked fresh peas

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 pound bow-tie pasta

1/4 cup julienne strips fresh mint leaves

In a saucepan cook shallot in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until softened. Add lemon juice and wine and boil liquid until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Stir in broth and boil liquid until reduced to 3/4 cup. Add cream and boil liquid until reduce to 3/4 cup. Stir in peas, zest, and Parmesan and cook sauce until peas are heated through. While making sauce, boil pasta until al dente and drain well. In a serving bowl toss pasta with sauce and mint. Serves 2.

Saffron rice with peas and cashews

1 tablespoon oil

2 cups Basmati rice

1/2 teaspoon (2 pinches) saffron threads

1 cup unroasted, lightly salted cashew halves

1 cup shelled peas

3 1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Wash and drain rice. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a 4-quart pot. Add the rice and saute a couple minutes. Add the saffron threads and cashew halves and saute for another minute. Add the peas, stir, then add the water, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 18-20 minutes. Take off the lid and turn the heat off. Stir in the garam masala and salt to taste. Let the rice sit for five minutes, then fluff with a fork. Serves 4 -6.

Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur, (larkspurvail.com) at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale, (avondalerestaurant.com) opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast inspired, market driven menu.