In our local farmers market, green peas (also known as English peas as I learned when I moved to Texas) are at their height, and nearly every vendor has a pile of bright green pods prominently displayed at the front of the stall. Prices are reasonable, too, if you are willing to make the effort to shell the beautiful green taste treats. My favorite way to eat fresh peas is directly out of hand from the pod, but there are lots of other ways to enjoy them when they are fresh. Pea salads are classics – with many versions to choose from – and a handful of fresh peas in a pasta salad perks up what can be a tired, clichéd tradition of summer. Braised peas and lettuce is also a good dish, or you can simply pan fry some peas in butter for a delicious treat.
But I have always wondered if there isn’t something to be done with the empty pods besides putting them in the compost pile. Of course, that is not a problem with edible peapods or sugar snap peas, but in my view neither of these choices has the flavor and bite of peas out the shell. So I wind up with lots of leftover peapods.
I asked my daughter, the San Francisco chef, if she had suggestions, and she said that she always uses them to make peapod stock that can then be used as any other vegetable stock or – better – as the base for a fresh pea soup. This recipe comes from that discussion. It is important to cool the cooked peas as quickly as you can to maintain the bright green color.
1½ pounds fresh peas in the pod
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ white onion, diced
4 Cups water
8 black peppercorns
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 Cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves, washed
1½ Cups buttermilk
juice of ½ fresh lemon
1. Shell the peas and store them in the refrigerator until ready to use. Chop the empty peapods coarsely and set aside.
2. In a 4 quart or larger stock pot, heat the oil over a medium low flame, add the chopped onion, and cover for about five minutes to allow the onions to “sweat”.
3. Add the chopped peapods and the 4 cups of water, or enough to cover the pods. Bring to a boil and add the salt and peppercorns. Boil gently for about 30 minutes. Then strain and return the strained liquid to the pot. Reduce the volume to about one-half.
4. Add the reserved peas and mint leaves and continue to boil gently for about 5 minutes or until the peas are tender.
5. Remove the pot from the heat and place in a large bowl filled with ice water and stir the mixture constantly so as to cool quickly.
6. Transfer the cooled mixture to a blender. You may need to do this step in batches. Hold the lid of the blender firmly while you start blending on the lowest setting, increasing the speed gradually. The mixture should form a fine puree. It is not necessary to strain it.
7. Stir in the buttermilk and lemon juice. Correct the seasonings with salt and pepper.
8. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before serving.
9. Garnish, if you like, with the dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt and a sprig of mint
Yield: Serves 4