One summer, midway through my unfortunate stint in summer school (see above) between the fourth and fifth grades, I stopped eating peas. Thinking back, I'm not sure why. Out of the blue, I simply stopped. Nobody understood my folly. I said no to the peas and no to my military father. Bad move. So, for weeks, on frozen pea nights (in true Leave It To Beaver fashion), I had to sit at the table for hours and stare at my aluminum tray until I finished my peas. I was stubborn. Knowing bedtime would eventually rear its ugly head, I never finished them. Ever. In reality, I might have missed the eschewed peas, but my little game was fun in a weird sort of way. Without fanfare, my resolve weakened. Other desires (paper routes, dolls, slurppies, backyard clubhouses, and puppies) seemed like more important battles to mount. After a few stubborn weeks, my rebellion waned, I once again embraced my frozen peas, and I never looked back
To this day, I'm still a pea fanatic. And, I'm still not picky. Canned, frozen, split, dried, pureed, or mashed, I love them all. In my little world, all peas are created equal. That said, fresh English garden peas are game changers. They can be elusive, though. Over the years, I don't recall ever seeing them at our local farmers' market. I'm sure that if I had seen any, I would have melted like a frozen dinner. Recently, that changed. Even though I've learned to expect the unexpected when I browse the farmers' market, I was shocked when I stumbled across a basket of fresh English peas (shell out peas) from Stonehedge Farm. They were dainty, small, and delicate. Mistaken for snap peas, I almost overlooked them. When I realized what they were, I melted.
Petits Pois a la Francaise (Sauteed Peas and Lettuce).
Except for shelling a few pounds of fresh peas, I'm not sure anything could be simpler than this emerald green take on early summer peas.
Snap. Tear. Scoop. Repeat. Shelling peas has a natural rhythm and flow. Snap the end, tear the string down the side, and scoop the peas into a bowl. Like snapping green beans in a rocking chair on a warm summer day, shelling peas can be wonderfully relaxing.
I cranked a heavy cast iron skillet over a medium flame and added 2 tablespoons of butter. When the butter started to sizzle, I added tiny round slivers of Paw Paw Plantation green onions. Just before the butter browned, I tumbled 2 cups of shelled peas into the butter and sauteed them for 4 minutes before splashing them white wine to create puffs of steam to soften the peas. After seasoning the peas with sea salt and cracked white pepper, I added an additional 2 tablespoons of butter, let the butter melt into the peas, and pulled the skillet from the flame before tossing them with loosely torn leaves of Elmwood Stock Farm butterhead lettuce and red leaf lettuce.
Before the lettuces completely wilted from the heat, I scooped the peas into a small bowl and finished with snipped chives.
Here's the deal. Fresh peas pop. Not only did these peas pop, they exploded. Tender and sweet, they retained a slight bite back quality that reminded me I was eating something special, real, and farm fresh. The real deal. And lettuce? Yep. Layers. Flavors. Textures. Nestled into the tiny pea bombs, the slightly wilted lettuces added a soft wet crunch that countered the intense buttery sweetness of the garden fresh peas. Balance.