Peas - All We Are Saying Is Give Peas A Chance
If vegetables were to get a report card, peas would be "A" students. Sure, they'd do well in fiber, nutrition, and flavor, but they'd really shine at "plays well with others."
If you've been reading about the health benefits of legumes but are having trouble fitting more lentils into your diet, peas are for you. They don't have the slightly mealy texture that puts some people off beans, they don't require long cooking times, and they're at home in any kind of dish. Okay, maybe not oatmeal or tiramisu, but just about anything else.
Spring is the best time for fresh peas, but even at the height of their season, you have to choose carefully or you could end up with woody or mealy specimens. Smaller peas tend to be better than larger ones, and the pods should be bright green and fresh looking. Since peas deteriorate quickly after picking, the greenmarket may be a better choice than the supermarket.
Most important, though, is to taste them. If they're not up to snuff, go directly to the frozen-food aisle. Frozen baby peas are often better than fresh. They're one of the few veggies that is just as good either way! But fresh or frozen, there are myriad ways to give peas a chance.
Frozen and fresh peas are interchangeable. The only difference is that frozen peas have been blanched and don't require the few minutes of simmering or steaming that fresh ones do.
Try a fresh pea soup: Sauté a chopped onion in olive oil, add 4 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of peas (fresh or frozen). Season with salt, pepper, and the herb of your choice. Simmer until the peas are tender, about 3 to 5 minutes, and puree the soup until smooth. Serve at room temperature or chilled, with a garnish of sour cream.
- Add them to pasta salad, potato salad, chicken salad, or tuna salad.
- If you're lucky enough to get really good fresh ones, just steam them lightly, and serve with a little butter or olive oil and a spritz of lemon.
- If your peas are a little woody, put them in soup - anything from minestrone to chowder.
- Throw them in just about anything - risotto, curry, stir fry, paella, stew. They mix well with rice, pasta, and whole grains such as barley, bulgur, and quinoa. You can also combine them with their leguminous brethren, including chickpeas, lentils, black-eyed peas, and navy beans. Just add them a few minutes before the dish is done (a minute or two longer for fresh peas than for frozen).
One last tip for those of you still having trouble incorporating peas into your day: Eat them frozen, straight out of the box. It's a great snack. Honest.
Green Pea Soup with Tarragon
2 pkgs (16 oz) frozen petite peas, divided
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 cups shallots, diced
4 c. vegetable broth
3 Tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped and divided
Plain nonfat yogurt, stirred
Fresh pea sprouts
Place 1 cup of the frozen peas in a microwave safe bowl and set aside. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the shallots and cook until lightly browned and tender, around 7 minutes. Add the remainder of the peas, broth and 2 tablespoons of the tarragon. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer until peas are tender, about another 7 minutes. Working in small batches in a blender, (or with the use of a hand blender) puree the soup until smooth. Place back into the saucepan to reheat. If the soup is too thick add more broth by the 1/4 cupful to thin it out. Stir in the rest of the tarragon and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the remaining frozen peas in the microwave, just to warm and use to garnish along with pea sprouts and a drizzle of nonfat, plain yogurt. Yum!
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