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

Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in March

Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in March

Your 10 best bets for this month.
Jamie Dixon: Winning His Way

Jamie Dixon: Winning His Way

Peers, players, and regular observers know him to be one of the best coaches — and people — in college basketball.
15 Buzzworthy Pittsburgh Salons

15 Buzzworthy Pittsburgh Salons

From east to west — and north and south — these are the region’s salons and services that make our cut. Having a good hair day doesn’t have to be so difficult after all.
Home of the Year: 2015

Home of the Year: 2015

This year’s selections include a Richland Township house built to appreciate its 160-acre lot and Shadyside garage that was renovated into a stunning, modern dream home.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

How Big a Salary Do You Need to Own a Home In Pittsburgh?

How Big a Salary Do You Need to Own a Home In Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh tops nationwide list for home affordability.
Why the Browns Could Take a Few Social Media Tips from the Penguins

Why the Browns Could Take a Few Social Media Tips from the Penguins

It seems the 'Burgh's boys of winter are popping up everywhere on the Internet.
Table for 36, Please: Penguins Invade D.C. Restaurant

Table for 36, Please: Penguins Invade D.C. Restaurant

One item on the menu got a lot of attention.
Another Pittsburgh-Area Singer Advances on 'The Voice'

Another Pittsburgh-Area Singer Advances on 'The Voice'

Plus –– who knew? Actor Will Smith's ties to Pittsburgh.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in March

Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in March

Your 10 best bets for this month.
Jamie Dixon: Winning His Way

Jamie Dixon: Winning His Way

Peers, players, and regular observers know him to be one of the best coaches — and people — in college basketball.
15 Buzzworthy Pittsburgh Salons

15 Buzzworthy Pittsburgh Salons

From east to west — and north and south — these are the region’s salons and services that make our cut. Having a good hair day doesn’t have to be so difficult after all.
Home of the Year: 2015

Home of the Year: 2015

This year’s selections include a Richland Township house built to appreciate its 160-acre lot and Shadyside garage that was renovated into a stunning, modern dream home.
Review: Tender Bar + Kitchen

Review: Tender Bar + Kitchen

Lawrenceville hot spot Tender, once favored primarily for its libations, now is known as well for its culinary offerings.
Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in February

Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in February

Your 10 best bets for this month.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module