A client of mine emailed to ask how she could possibly have liked a recent dish that featured peas so much when her entire life she’s been a pea-hater. I wrote back and basically said I had no idea, except that maybe the peas weren’t overcooked, which they usually are. I said that maybe she felt my intense pea-loving vibes, because so deep is my pea love that while making that dish I ate an entire 16-oz bag of peas cooked for just a whisper of a second past unfrozen, naked as the day they were born except for some e.v.o., fleur de sel and smoked pepper.
I didn’t mention that the peas were frozen, though, because I was sort of ashamed of it. I should properly be shelling local fresh peas right now, but I just refuse. First of all, can I confess something? I find that unless they are literally five minutes off the vine, local fresh peas aren’t sweet enough for me. Sugar snap peas are one thing—one wonderful amazing sugary snappy thing I adore with my whole heart, but English shelling peas are quite another. Are they like corn, where their sugars turn to starches immediately after picking? I think so. Whatever the science behind it, I’m usually disappointed.
Second of all, there is the labor issue. Either I’m going to spend an entire day shelling them in order to have enough for 20 clients, or I’m going to use them as a twee little garnish on a dish, and what’s the point of that? So I buy a few pounds of shelling peas at the farmer’s market each season and shell them while reading a good book and eating them raw, and that’s that.
For the service I use frozen organic peas from California (Cascadian Farm Petite Sweet Peas, if you must know): super sweet, bright green, dependable, succulent, amazing. I don’t really advertise it, because I use almost no other frozen foods. (Well, I use a lot of frozen stuff during the winter, but it’s local summery organic produce I’ve frozen myself.)
But my client wrote back and asked if they were fresh or not, and I wrote back basically everything I just said to justify the fact that they were frozen, and I have spent like three hours feeling like the worst chef in the world because of it.
Then the client just wrote back and said she thinks she has been eating canned peas her whole life, and that’s why she liked my peas so much.
Canned peas? Is this still happening in 2009?
Wow, I am so much more awesome than I was five minutes ago.
And anyway, the dish had local organic asparagus, arugula, pea shoots and spinach, and homegrown herbs (fennel fronds! garlic leaves!), so I can’t feel that bad.
(Check out the recipe in the Bloodroot book (Vol. I): Artichoke and Asparagus Sauce for Pasta with Pine Nut Gremolata. You basically make a roux and add cooked artichoke flesh and cooked asparagus then blend it up, add shoyu and lemon juice and s&p to make a thick pasta sauce, then make a gremolata with pine nuts, lemon zest, and parsley for the garnish. Scraping the artichoke leaves is an activity best spent in front of a good movie, in my opinion. I make this dish once a year, and freeze leftover sauce for a springy taste in the middle of winter. I add peas to the recipe and leave off the parm, and yeah, I worked on that book, but don’t worry I don’t get any money if you buy it!)