Cooking Cove: More fresh peas, please

Cooking Cove: More fresh peas, please

Fresh Pea Soup

By Barbara Beltrami

If you’re thinking of not bothering to read this because you have better things to do than shell peas, relax. This article is about those emerald green ones that are an early spring crop and that you buy, if you happen to be  into shelling peas, in the produce department. Otherwise, you buy them frozen, and they’re almost as good, certainly good enough for the recipes that follow. If you think peas are half of the vegetable called peasandcarrots that you grew up with, think again. This is about fresh pea soup with mint, a lovely spring dish served hot or warm and a refreshing summer dish, served cold. It’s about pasta with peas, asparagus and arugula and, yes, for nostalgia’s sake, it’s even about peasandcarrots but in a tangy rice salad.

Fresh Pea Soup

Fresh Pea Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups chopped Vidalia onion

1 cup chopped fresh fennel

4 to 5 cups chicken broth

Two 10-ounce packages frozen peas or 5 cups shelled fresh peas

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 teaspoons fresh tarragon leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion and fennel and, stirring frequently, cook over medium-low heat until they begin to soften, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add broth, peas, parsley, tarragon, salt and pepper; then cook 10 minutes over medium heat until vegetables are tender but peas are still bright green. Reserve two tablespoons peas. 

Let soup cool 10 minutes; puree in batches in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until just bubbling. Remove from heat. Ladle into soup tureen or individual soup plates; swirl in cream and garnish with reserved peas. Serve hot, warm or cold with soft rolls, tomato and cucumber salad and a crisp, dry white wine.

Spaghetti with Peas, Asparagus and Arugula

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 bunches scallions, top third discarded, bottom two-thirds cleaned and sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

½ cup dry white wine

¾ cup chicken broth

1½ bunches asparagus, cleaned, bottoms of stalks removed, then sliced diagonally cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound thin spaghetti

One 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed, or 2 cups shelled fresh peas

One 10-ounce package sugar snap  peas, thawed

1 bunch arugula, washed, destemmed and torn into bite-size pieces

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In large skillet over medium heat, melt butter; add olive oil. Add scallions and cook over medium heat until they are soft but not brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and white wine; cook over medium-high heat until liquid is reduced to a glaze. Add chicken broth, stir and remove from heat. 

Cook asparagus in large pot of boiling water until tender but still bright green about 5 minutes. Remove asparagus from water and set aside; reserve water. Cook spaghetti according to package directions in water from asparagus, then drain and place in skillet with scallions, garlic, wine and broth. Heat over medium low flame and toss with thawed peas and snap peas. 

When heated through, place in large pasta bowl, and toss with arugula, the one-third cup oil, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Serve warm with crusty Italian bread, sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

Cold Basmati Rice Salad with PeasandCarrots

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

5 to 6 cups cooked basmati rice

2 cups thawed frozen peas or 2 cups cooked shelled fresh peas

2 cups cooked diced fresh carrots

2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves

2 scallions, finely chopped

¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed    lemon juice

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be served at room temperature or cold with meat, poultry or fish.

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