Give Peas a Chance

Embracing an icon of spring in a new way alongside Girasol chef C.J. Jacobson.

Peas often get a bad rap—remembered from our childhood as that lump of green with a greyish tinge scooped from a can. But now the reputation of the pea has undergone a dramatic makeover, thanks to some creative chefs who make a beeline for them at farmers markets this time of year. 

Executive chef C.J. Jacobson serves peas in a variety of ways at his market-driven, California-inspired Studio City restaurant Girasol. “I like peas because they are one of the sweetest vegetables around,” says Chef C.J. “With such a sweet and green flavor, peas are versatile and can even be used in both sweet and savory ice cream. Sweet pea ice cream is delicious.”

Peas have a short season and are best harvested during May and June when they can be removed easily from their pods. “Don’t buy yellow, chalky-looking peas. Look for vibrant green peas where the chlorophyll is so pronounced, it looks like it wants to hug you. Another way to gauge the quality of peas is to simply taste them. Peas are one of the few vegetables I prefer always to be sweet.”

Below C.J. shares a creation for Girasol’s spring menu, Sweet Spring Pea Salad with Wild Mint Cream Curd and Green Strawberry. “I wanted to use the berry flavor and its acidity to offset the sweetness of the peas and richness of the cream,” he explains.

Since this is a light dish, the chef recommends serving it as a first course to something hearty, such as red meat or a steak-like fish. Enjoy!  

 

Sweet Spring Pea Salad with Wild Mint Cream Curd and Green Strawberry

Serves 4

1 cup whole sugar snap peas, blanched
½ cup English peas, removed from pod and blanched*
½ cup pea tendrils

 

Wild Mint Curd 

2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup wild mint leaves (or store-bought)
1 tablespoon agar-agar (all-natural thickening product, available at Whole Foods and Asian markets)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

To make the curd, heat all ingredients except the agar in a pot and bring to a simmer. If time allows, let mixture cool overnight to infuse. Strain the cream mixture, whisk in the agar and bring to a simmer for 2 minutes. Cool in fridge. Once firm, break the cream into pieces and process in a blender to form a thick cream.

 

To plate:

4 green strawberries (thinly sliced)
lemon
olive oil
salt
Optional: blueberries, edible flowers

Toss peas and green strawberries in a bowl with a few drops of lemon and olive oil. Season with salt. Spoon some cream in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Arrange tossed peas on top of the cream, using it for stability. Garnish with blueberries and edible flowers, if desired.

*How to blanch peas: Place peas in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Promptly remove and cover in a bowl of ice water. 

All You Ever Wanted to Know About … 

Peas are botanically both a vegetable and a fruit. The seed from which they originate is considered a vegetable; the outer pod is a fruit. 

Peas should be used within two days of purchase. Refrigerate in a plastic bag in crisper drawer.

Sugar Snap Peas: 

Round, plump pods than can be stir-fried, steamed, cut into salads or eaten whole.  

English Peas: 

Flat, tough pods that can’t be eaten whole. The peas must be popped out. Delicate, with shorter seasonal life than sugar snap peas.

Pea Tendrils (or Pea Shoots): 

Early stems of the pea plant; sold in bunches. Chop or use whole to add texture and a subtle pea taste to salads or sautés.

Green Strawberries: 

Unripe strawberries with a slight blush and tart taste. Use in sweet or savory recipes.

Chef C.J. Jacobson looks for veggies at the farmers market.
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