Cathie Campbell

Peas that please

Sometimes I wonder if parents are still telling their children, “Eat your peas” at the dinner table. I remember hearing my Italian Nana saying that to some of her other grandchildren, but I needed no such prompting because I have always loved peas, or piselli as she called them. I was always asking her, “How do you say that in Italian?”

There were some words she would not explain, and I guess they were Italian cuss words. But back to peas. Peas of all forms are delicious, but one of my favorite snacks is to eat English peas fresh from the pods.

When I used to grow them, they almost never made it to the dinner table because I would pop them into my mouth as soon as they were shelled. Sometimes, in my less greedy moments, I would refrain from eating them all and would cook some to share. If you are a pea fan like I am, here are some recipes for you.

Crunchy pea salad

8 slices bacon

1 package (10-oz.) frozen peas, thawed and drained

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped green onions

2/3 cup sour cream

1 cup coarsely chopped salted cashews (I like to use the halves and pieces)

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain and crumble and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine peas, celery, green onions and sour cream. Toss gently to mix.

3. Just before serving, blend in the cashews and bacon. Salt and pepper to taste. Makes 6 servings.

Italian green peas

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

16 ounces frozen green peas

1 tablespoon chicken stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, then the onion and garlic, stirring about 5 minutes. Watch the garlic carefully so it won’t burn.

2. Add frozen peas, and stir in the chicken stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the peas are tender, about 10 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Pasta with peas

3 cups peas, fresh or frozen

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 slices bacon, diced

1 small onion, minced

1 pound pasta, such as fettuccine

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, combine peas, butter, bacon, onion and 3/4 cup water. Cook until water has evaporated and peas are cooked, about 15 minutes.

2. While pea mixture is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add pasta, and cook until al dente, 10 minutes.Drain, reserving 1 cup water.

3. Add pasta, water, Parmesan cheese, sugar, salt and pepper to skillet with peas and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Potage Saint Germain

For croutons:

1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch cubes of French or Italian bread

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For soup:

2 leeks, just the white parts, washed and chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cups chicken broth

4 cups shelled fresh green peas or two 10-ounce packages frozen

4 cups chopped lettuce, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup chilled heavy cream, if desired

1. To make the croutons: In a bowl drizzle the bread cubes with the butter, tossing them to coat them well, and in a shallow baking dish bake them in a preheated 350°F. oven, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until the croutons are golden and crisp. Season the croutons with salt. The croutons may be made 1 day in advance and kept in an airtight container.

2. To make the soup: In a large saucepan cook chopped leeks in the butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are softened. Add the broth and 2 cups water, and bring the mixture to a boil. Add peas and lettuce and simmer the mixture, partially covered, for 10 minutes, or until the peas are tender. Stir in the mint and in a blender or food processor puree the soup in batches. The soup may be made 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled. Return the soup to the pan, season it with salt and pepper, and reheat it over moderately low heat, stirring, until it is hot.

3. To prepare the cream, if using: In a small bowl beat cream until it is thickened slightly but still pourable and season it with salt. Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle drops of the cream on each serving, and draw a skewer or knife through the drops, forming decorative patterns. Serve the soup with the croutons.

Bow-tie pasta with asparagus, snap peas and avocado

1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 pound sugar snap peas, strings removed

1 pound bow-tie pasta (farfalle)

4 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, parsley, or basil (or a mixture of all three)

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, plus more for serving, if desired

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook asparagus until bright green, about 2 minutes. Add snap peas; cook 30 seconds. With a slotted spoon or a small sieve, transfer vegetables to a bowl.

2. Return water to a boil; add the bow-tie pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water; set pasta aside in colander.

3. In pasta pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add asparagus, snap peas and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter, cooked pasta, avocado, herbs, cheese, and reserved pasta water. Toss to combine; season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with additional cheese, if desired. Makes 6 servings.