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Market Fresh: Aim to please with green peas

 

Anne Freeze

 

The abundance of English peas at the Hitching Lot Farmers' Market in Columbus this season has been welcome. When I first moved to Mississippi, my husband, Terry, told me how much he loved peas. So, being a newlywed, I made it my life's ambition to include my favorite little frozen peas in as many dishes as possible. Turns out he didn't mean peas; he meant peas!  

 

"What?" you ask. He meant purple hull peas, and couldn't understand why I kept serving green ones, which he hated.  

 

Like butter beans, peas in the pod are a little labor intensive, but they cook so quickly I don't mind the shelling process. To cook, simply blanch them in salted boiling water and then plunge into cold water to set the color and stop the cooking. If they are very young, then you're talking a minute, maybe. They would cook on their own thrown into eggs while scrambling or into the pasta water at the last second before draining.  

 

The first recipe below is from the charming cookbook "The Gift of Southern Cooking" by Scott Peacock and Miss Edna Lewis. Miss Lewis, who died in 2006, was the first recipient of the Southern Foodways Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. She was recognized by many to be the voice for the preservation of Southern cooking.  

 

The second recipe is from "New Southern Cooking" by Nathalie Dupree. It was published in 1986; my copy has many dirty dog-eared pages. Nathalie was one of the first TV chefs in the days before the Food Network. She was on public television bringing the foods from her cooking school and later her restaurant in Social Circle, Geogia, to the nation. 

 

Anne Freeze was a restaurant general manager and owner of a gourmet food store before moving to Columbus. She can be reached at anniefreeze@me.com. 

 

 

 

MINTED SOUP OF ENGLISH PEAS 

 

 

 

4 tablespoons unsalted butter 

 

1 large Vidalia onion diced (about 1 1/2 cups) 

 

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 

 

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

 

4 pounds fresh English peas in the shell (about 3 cups shelled) 

 

1 strip good thick bacon 

 

6 cups chicken stock 

 

1 sprig of mint (about 12 young fresh leaves) 

 

1 cup heavy cream 

 

Freshly ground black pepper 

 

1-4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold (optional) 

 

 

 

  • Melt the 4 tablespoons butter in a large nonreactive saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until bubbling but not colored. Add the diced onion, thyme and salt.  

     

  • Add the bacon and cook until it has rendered its fat and then remove.  

     

  • Cook until the onions are translucent. Toss in the peas and stir well to coat with the butter and seasonings. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  

     

  • Add the chicken stock and simmer until peas are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Skim the soup as it simmers to remove any impurities. Sprinkle in the mint leaves and stir well. 

     

  • Puree in batches in a blender until perfectly smooth. Return to the pot and bring to a simmer before stirring in the heavy cream. Taste carefully for seasoning, and add a few grinds of black pepper. If the soup feels starchy to the tongue, whisk in the optional butter by tablespoons until the soup is velvety smooth. Serve hot in preheated cups or bowls. 

     

    (Source: "The Gift of Southern Cooking," by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock) 

     

     

     

    ENGLISH PEAS WITH GREEN ONIONS AND THYME OR MINT 

     

     

     

    3 cups shelled fresh English peas 

     

    1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint or thyme 

     

    1-2 leaves iceberg or romaine lettuce 

     

    1 small bunch green onions, trimmed of roots and outside layers 

     

    5 tablespoons butter 

     

    1/2 cup chicken stock 

     

    Salt 

     

    Freshly ground black pepper 

     

     

     

  • Place the peas, herb, lettuce, onions and butter in a pan. In another pan, bring the stock to the boil and add to the rest of the ingredients. Bring back to the boil and continue cooking, covered, until the peas are done, yet slightly crunchy, about 6-8 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired. 

     

    (Source: "New Southern Cooking," by Nathalie Dupree)

     

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