June 4, 2014 10:09:11 AM
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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)
(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
Freshly ground black pepper
(Source: "New Southern Cooking," by Nathalie Dupree)
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