Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pass the Peas

I try to always have peas in my freezer. This seems like a boring statement, but I find that peas can add dimension to a lot of different dishes. When I am taking leftovers for lunch at work, I like to add peas to my Tupperware. If I’ve run out of vegetables, peas are an easy go-to to have on hand.
This past year was the first time I had ever grown fresh peas, and I am pretty sure, one of the first times I ever ate fresh peas. They were phenomenal. I even tried to keep on little pea pod in the refrigerator as a friendly reminder of spring. But Joe saw the little shriveled yellowing thing and asked to throw it out. I reluctantly agreed. I wasn’t planning on eating it; I just liked looking at it in the fridge.

Hello pea pod! Only a few more months until I plant you again. Then you can have fresh pea pod friends in the fridge again!

But until fresh peas are growing up the chain link fence in the backyard, frozen peas will have to do. And as far as frozen vegetables go, peas are pretty good. Plus peas, butter, salt and pepper make a pretty decent snack.
Although I am not here to extoll the value of a bag of frozen peas to you. I am here to share a recipe. Pea Pesto. Yes, I know the term pesto has been bandied about more than we want, but it sounds sexier then puree, or mash so I am sticking to it. For the purposes of this recipe, let’s assume that a pesto is a basic formula of green + nut + garlic + parmesan cheese + olive oil. You can add salt and pepper, as well as lemon juice or other acid. But these are optional. If you want to make it vegan, omit the cheese and try using a different oily nut like cashews.
So with this basic formula, anything green can be made into a “pesto” of sorts. I have had a very nice spinach pesto a friend made once, as well as other herbal and nut themed ones. However, this pea pesto is easy, cheap and a good recipe to keep on hand. It’s a great pantry recipe, as you probably have most of the ingredients on hand. Feel free to play around with the type of nuts, and any herbs you may want to add.

Pea Pesto
As adapted from Gourmet July 2007

I tried to keep this as basic as possible, but I think the pine nuts and parmesan cheese really help keep the flavor closer to an original pesto. You can make this as thick or thin as you like with the addition of more olive oil. If you keep it thicker, it makes a great spread on crostini.

1 16oz. bag frozen peas, defrosted
½ c pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves (more or less to taste)
¼ c grated parmesan cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tb olive oil (or more to thin)
Salt and pepper to taste

1 lb. whole grain pasta, such as penne

Combine peas, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor or blender. Begin to puree. Add cheese, lemon juice and 1 Tb of olive oil. Continue to blend, adding more olive oil as needed to reach desired constituency. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta according to directions. Reserve ¼ c. pasta water, and drain pasta. Place the pesto and ¼ c. water into the warm pot and toss with the pasta. Serve with more grated cheese and little drizzle of olive oil.

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