I was excited and a little leery when I found a bagful of fresh English peas in my latest CSA box.
As confirmed by my CSA representative, English peas are extremely sensitive to hot weather, so they would have never had a chance on my grandparents’ farm in South Mississippi. Therefore, the only English peas I’ve ever eaten have come straight out of the can, slightly mushy and pretty bland. Meh.
Since the record-breaking heat in North Alabama/South Tennessee was making it clear that this would be the only fresh English peas I would get this year, I knew I had to make the most of them.
I don’t mean this as an insult to my Southern ancestry, but at some point cooks in the South started boiling vegetables into a salty mush. I remember the first time I ever had a string bean that had been briefly steamed, and thus still held a bit of natural sweetness and a light crunch. (Truly, it would have been considered underdone at my grandmother’s house.) Corn on the cob became a whole new experience for me when I discovered that I could simply wrap individual ears in waxed paper and microwave them for a few minutes, leaving sweet and crunchy kernels that needed neither salt nor butter.
I was determined not to turn these peas into mush.
I found inspiration at Williams-Sonoma’s website: Sautéed English Peas with Garlic and Sesame. Unfortunately, I didn’t have sesame seeds or sesame oil in my pantry, so I had to wing it. I also don’t know how many pounds of peas I started with; Williams-Sonoma recommended two garlic cloves for 3 pounds of unshelled English peas. Do the math for the amount of peas you have, or just use a couple of cloves of garlic.
There are few vegetable recipes that wouldn’t be made better with a couple of cloves of garlic.
The husband was at first stunned by the color of the peas when I removed the lid from the pan; the short cooking time had left the peas a brilliant green. The texture was magnificent; they weren’t crunchy or chewy, but they weren’t mushy either. The garlic flavor burst through with every bite, but not in an overwhelming way.
Sautéed English Peas with Garlic
- Fresh English peas, shelled
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- Pinch of sea salt
- Pinch of freshly ground pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl 2/3 full with ice water. Add the peas to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Drain the peas and immediately plunge them into the ice water. Let stand for two minutes and drain.
In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, until it is fragrant but not brown, about 30 seconds.
Add the peas, salt and pepper, and sauté, tossing and stirring occasionally, until the peas are just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately.
Yang hasn’t given up his photobombing duties; here, he inspects the bowl of English peas mid-shoot.