Midsummer is time for fresh, crisp,green pod peas - snow and snap peas.
Pod peas include both Oriental snow peas - thin, crisp, flat pods - and sugar snap peas which are full and round, with both peas and pods. Grown for the pod rather than the pea, they are 2-3 inches long, crisp, bright green, and sweeter than their round English pea cousins. They thrive in cool climates like ours and should be harvested daily, since the young tender pods become tough when mature.
One of the earliest cultivated plants, snow peas have been grown near the Thai-Burmese border for thousands of years. Today we know them as a common ingredient in Oriental dishes like stir-fries and fried rice, where they provide vibrant color, sweetness and crunch. Sugar snaps are a recent cross between the traditional English green pea and the Oriental snow pea.
Pod peas (because you eat the pod) are nutritionally comparable to regular English peas. They have about 45 calories per cup and are a good source of fiber, vitamins A and C, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin and niacin), vitamin K, and minerals iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Like other legumes they are a good plant source of protein, low in fat, and contain ample fiber and carbohydrates.
To prepare, simply remove the strings, beginning at the tip and pulling down the straightest side towards the stem end; pinch off the stem and continue pulling on the other side. Rinse in a colander and let drain for a few minutes. They're great raw as a snack or appetizer, and add crispness, color and variety to salads and cooked dishes.. Blanching for just 30 seconds brings out their vivid green and heightens their crispness.
The pods are best added at the last minute to cooked dishes; overcooking destroys their crunch, color and flavor. Steam or stir-fry for just 1 or 2 minutes to preserve their flavor and crisp texture. They can also be grilled on the barbecue or eaten raw in salads and sandwiches.
They're great for easy summer meals: Since the peas' delicate flavor is easily overpowered, and cooking softens the pods and destroys the flavor, simple is best. Combine with young onions, mushrooms, water chestnuts, or colorful vegetables like carrots or sweet red peppers.
These delicacies' sweet crunchiness can be enjoyed with little fuss. Some simple serving suggestions:
Serve raw as a snack or appetizer with your favorite creamy dip.
Toss raw pod peas into a green salad.
Mix raw or blanched pod peas into your favorite pasta, potato or rice salad.
Add to your favorite stir-fry or pasta dish during the last one or two minutes of cooking for a dramatic color accent.
Snappy Grilled Cheese
Snap peas or snow peas (as many as you can fit on two slices of bread in one layer)
Few thin slices sweet onion, optional
4 slices bread (whole grain or white, your preference)
4 slices cheese for this I prefer Swiss or mild Cheddar
1 Tablespoon softened butter for spreading (approximate)
String peas. Rinse & set aside to drain.
Peel onion. Cut in half, then cut a couple thin slices. Set aside. Reserve the rest of the onion for another use.
Butter the outsides of each bread slice. Layer Cheese, onion, peas, and another slice of cheese. Cover with another bread slice, buttered side up.
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Brown the sandwich for about 3 minutes, then flip with a spatula and brown the other side, until both sides are golden brown and the cheese has melted. Enjoy!
You can also bake these in the oven, or make open-face sandwiches in the toaster oven.
Barley and Pea Salad
This can be served warm as a main dish or chilled for a main dish salad. Barley & peas make a complete protein so it is a vegan main dish. If you wish, you can also add hard cooked chopped egg and / or feta cheese for additional protein.
1/2 cup barley
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons torn mint leaves
2 Tablespoons fresh minced parsley
2 Tablespoons fresh minced chives
3 or 4 garlic scapes, sliced 1/4" thick
8 ounces sugar snap peas or snow peas, or some of each
1 carrot, shredded or chopped into matchsticks
Optional ingredients: hard cooked eggs and / or crumbled feta cheese
In medium saucepan, combine barley, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Cover, and cook until liquid is absorbed and barley is tender. This will depend on the type of barley you're using, so check package directions (10 12 minutes for quick cooking barley; 20 minutes for pearl barley; longer for hulled barley). Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
While barley cooks, chop the herbs, shred the carrot and string the peas. Optional blanch peas: Have ready a large bowl of ice water, a slotted spoon, and a plate lined with a cloth or paper towel. Bring a pan of water to boil over high heat. Add a teaspoon of salt and the snap peas and boil just until bright green and crisp, 30 - 50 seconds. Quickly remove the snap peas with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice bath. When the peas are completely cool, remove them from the ice bath and drain on the towel-lined plate. Cut the snap peas lengthwise on the diagonal into 1-inch or 2-inch lengths. Set aside.
Assemble salad: When barley has finished cooking, stir in the olive oil, salt and pepper. Cool slightly and stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and chopped fresh herbs (garlic scapes, parsley, chives and mint). Stir in peas and carrot. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
Serve immediately, or chill covered in the refrigerator.
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