To burst open a pod of fresh peas and eat them raw is one of life's simple pleasures. In fact more peas are eaten raw than cooked in my house. They end up in salads of one type or another. I enjoy when they seem to tuck themselves into the crevices of the lettuces, which when found give a pleasant pop and sweetness.
When I do happen to cook peas they are plunged straight from their pods into rapidly boiling salted water. They only need about three minutes, then quickly removed and immediately put into ice water to stop the cooking and to preserve their beautiful emerald color. Ready-shelled peas from the market are a lovey convenience, but their life is quite short. Of course you can use a bag of frozen peas, they are a testament to conformity and reliability.
I like to add peas to a spring risotto with asparagus and lemon. Or to a summer soup of lettuces, spinach. and zucchini. It can be left as is, but I prefer it puréed until smooth and then topped with crumbled bacon or toasted pepitas. On occasion I've been known to add a little creme fraiche at the end which gives it a beautiful richness. A simple salad of quickly blanched fresh peas, mint, tender greens and shaved pecorino cheese is a bowl celebrating summer. Dressed in a lemony vinaigrette is a revelation that can make the heart sing. A new addition to my recipe repertoire is this pea pesto. It is made by quickly blanching fresh peas that are then added to basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan. After a quick whiz in a food processor it is ready to be a topping for crostini or stirred into hot pasta or roasted potatoes. Peas and potatoes are close friends. They not only share a growing season but are a pleasant marriage in the mouth. The sweet green pea and the nutty potato form an inseparable partnership. Fresh herbs such as mint, tarragon and basil also enhance the tender pea. This pesto with the addition of an abundance of basil is a testament to this fact. As an appetizer this can top a little grilled bread along with some creamy burrata cheese and a little proscuitto. For a main dish tossing the pesto into some hot pasta along with some additional fresh peas, scallions, and Yukon potatoes is a quick and family pleasing weeknight dinner.-s
Summer Pea Pesto
2 cups fresh peas (frozen, thawed can also be used)
2 cups basil leaves
1 clove garlic (roughly chopped)
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Baguette, sliced into 1-inch slices and grilled
Prosciutto, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salt water to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 4 minutes. Plunge immediately in ice water to stop the cooking and set the color. Strain and set aside.
In a food processor, add the blanched peas, basil, garlic and pine nuts. Pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in ¼ cup olive oil. Add ¼ cup Parmesan and pulse just to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the baguette slices on both sides with olive oil. When grill pan is hot, grill the bread until nice grill marks have developed on each side of the bread.
To serve, arrange the grilled bread on a platter. Spoon some of the pea pesto on each slice. Top with some burrata and a thin slice of prosciutto. Drizzle with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Make ahead: The pea pesto can be made a day ahead. Store in a container with a thin layer of olive oil over the top to prevent browning. Cover tightly with plastic wrap.
Pea Pesto with Pasta and Potatoes
Use the pea pesto in this delicious pasta dish!
½ recipe of the Pea Pesto
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced white and green parts
1 cup raw peas
1 pound penne pasta
2 Yukon Gold potatoes (cut into ½-inch pieces)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, scallions and raw peas. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until scallions soften, about 2 minutes.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, drop the pasta and potatoes. Cook until pasta is al dente, according to package instructions. Drain.
To the pan with the peas, add the cooked pasta and potatoes, toss to combine and remove from heat. Add just enough pea pesto to coat the pasta, toss to coat.
Finish with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.