Bites of Spring



Photos by Laura Petrilla

Some vegetables have been unfairly maligned. Think of how many generations of children (and adults) have been prejudiced against Brussels sprouts, when in reality, these miniature little cabbages should be treasured for their nutty and distinctive flavors.

People hear “pea soup” and immediately imagine some drab olive-green concoction with the consistency of wallpaper paste and a flavor to match. But peas are some of the first flavors of spring and should be anticipated and celebrated like the first bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau in November or the first spears of asparagus in March or April.

Actually, spring’s English peas are quite different from the field peas, which are meant to be dried, and from snap peas, which are eaten pods and all. English, or garden, peas are best cooked and eaten immediately after they come out of their shells. It’s always a good idea to buy more than you think you’ll need because a pound only results in a cup of the shelled peas. If you need to store them for a day or so, you can wrap them well and keep them in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

The other danger is overcooking. If you are going to use the peas in a salad, you can just blanch them for half a minute in boiling water followed by an ice-water bath. That will keep their crunch and beautiful green color.

But the classic preparation is a cold pea soup accented with fresh mint, a dollop of crème fraîche and a miniature bouquet of pea tendrils. If peas have been unfairly relegated to your “do not eat” list, give them a try this spring. We’ll work on brussels sprouts in the fall.

Visit pittsburghmagazine.com for my parmesan-and-herb crouton recipe. Croutons are a crunchy accompaniment to any soup and just as delicious for snacking.


Make the most of the first English peas of the season with this traditional cold pea soup, garnished with mint, crème fraîche and pea tendrils.

Cold English Pea Soup

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 pounds fresh English peas (4 cups shelled)
  • Ice-water bath
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 4 fresh mint leaves (plus more for garnish)
  • Crème fraîche, for garnish

In a small sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat and cook the onion until it is soft but not browned. Bring 8 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Add the shelled peas and bring back to a boil. Let cook until the peas are tender but still bright green, about 6 minutes.

Drain the peas, reserving about 1/2 cup of the boiling liquid and immediately put them into an ice-water bath. This will help them retain their beautiful green color.

Drain the peas and return them to a high-sided pot or bowl along with the reserved cooking liquid and softened onions. Use an immersion blender to puree the peas. Salt and pepper to taste; add 4 mint leaves and continue to puree.
Serve at room temperature or chilled with a dollop of crème fraîche, mint leaves and some pea tendrils if they are available.

 

 

 

 

 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Welcome to the New Pittsburgh: A City Transformed

Welcome to the New Pittsburgh: A City Transformed

A new economy is being built by a younger, highly educated generation that appreciates the city’s past while embracing its future.
Pittsburgh's Hill District, Reimagined

Pittsburgh's Hill District, Reimagined

Thanks to grassroots community efforts and investments by nonprofits, foundations and developers, the neighborhood is on the cusp of a long-awaited renaissance.
PittGirl: Time to Let Go of the Past

PittGirl: Time to Let Go of the Past

She says we 'Burghers must recognize our resistance to change and realize that we need to give it a chance.
Review: Willow

Review: Willow

Following a menu and interior overhaul in late 2014, Willow returns as a revitalized dining option in the North Hills.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

See 62 Years of Change in Pittsburgh With a Swipe of the Mouse

See 62 Years of Change in Pittsburgh With a Swipe of the Mouse

Guaranteed you will look at this more than once.
Pittsburgh Dad's Take on Super-Deflate-Gate, Parking Meter Meltdown, Hypnotic Snow

Pittsburgh Dad's Take on Super-Deflate-Gate, Parking Meter Meltdown, Hypnotic Snow

Our weekly round-up of awesome, funny, quirky posts about or from the 'Burgh.
Another Movie Shot & Set in Pittsburgh Headed to the Big Screen

Another Movie Shot & Set in Pittsburgh Headed to the Big Screen

"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" received rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival.
New Comedy Shooting in Pittsburgh Features A-List Celebs

New Comedy Shooting in Pittsburgh Features A-List Celebs

The cast includes three Academy Award-Winners
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Welcome to the New Pittsburgh: A City Transformed

Welcome to the New Pittsburgh: A City Transformed

A new economy is being built by a younger, highly educated generation that appreciates the city’s past while embracing its future.
Pittsburgh's Hill District, Reimagined

Pittsburgh's Hill District, Reimagined

Thanks to grassroots community efforts and investments by nonprofits, foundations and developers, the neighborhood is on the cusp of a long-awaited renaissance.
PittGirl: Time to Let Go of the Past

PittGirl: Time to Let Go of the Past

She says we 'Burghers must recognize our resistance to change and realize that we need to give it a chance.
Review: Willow

Review: Willow

Following a menu and interior overhaul in late 2014, Willow returns as a revitalized dining option in the North Hills.
A Growing Rivalry on Ice: Robert Morris vs. Penn State

A Growing Rivalry on Ice: Robert Morris vs. Penn State

Two teams that clearly don't like each other are vying for bragging rights for the state.
Review: Salt of the Earth

Review: Salt of the Earth

Brandon Fisher is the latest chef behind Salt of the Earth’s modern-American dishes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags