Sometimes it's so easy being green. The ever-popular pea, a favorite springtime veggie, is arriving in quantity in produce sections, and who'd want to resist its multiple appeals? Along with the vibrant color, there's the so-edible size, the crunchy-smooth texture and subtly distinctive taste.
When you're out buying peas, look for firm, crisp pods with a medium- to dark-green color. Peas come in several varieties, and to liven up your table you may enjoy experimenting with all three of the following, as defined in a feature in the May issue of All You magazine:
--Snow peas are harvested as flat, tender pods before the peas inside have a chance to develop. The edible pods are great in a stir-fry or sauteed dish, but remember to remove the string that runs along the narrow end. Simply tug at the string and pull, or tease it out with a paring knife.
--Garden peas are the variety most people are familiar with; they make a tasty base for a classic pea soup. Garden peas must be removed from their pods, which are inedible, and are either wrinkled or smooth. Opt for the wrinkled kind -- they're sweeter.
--Sugar snap peas have thicker pods than snow peas; they're also plumper. When snapped, they should make a cracking sound, similar to the one green beans make. Try them steamed and tossed with butter, salt and pepper, or eat them raw for a crunchy, nutritious snack.
For a dish to make when time is short and appetite sharp, try this salad -- it's nutritious and economical as well as full of spring flavor and color.
Pea Salad With Bacon and Eggs
(Start to finish 40 minutes)
4 large eggs
1 1/2 pounds fresh pea pods, shelled (2 cups peas)
6 strips smoked bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 small onion
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
Hard-boil eggs: Put eggs into a small saucepan, add enough water to cover and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Turn off heat, cover and let stand for 20 minutes. Drain, then cover eggs with ice water. Let stand until eggs are cold, about 5 minutes. Drain and peel.
Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan half full of water to a boil. Add peas, reduce heat and simmer until peas are tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat, stirring until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon fat from pan; add onion and garlic to pan and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in peas and bacon, followed by olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Chop eggs, add to salad and toss gently.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 236 cal., 16 g fat (5 g saturated), 225 mg chol., 3 g fiber, 13 g pro., 11 g carbo., 360 mg sodium.
Another quick idea:
Peas With Lemon and Thyme
3 cups fresh peas (from 2 pounds pea pods)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Bring a medium saucepan half full of water to a boil. Add peas; reduce heat and simmer until tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Just before serving, melt butter over medium heat. Add peas, lemon juice, thyme salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until heated,about 5 minutes.
Makes 6 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 88 cal., 4 g fat (2 g saturated), 10 mg chol., 3 g fiber, 4 g pro., 9 g carbo., 236 mg sodium.