What to do with some leftover spring veggies? Taking stock of what was lurking in the crisper, I uncovered several ounces of fresh sugar snap peas and a handful of asparagus stalks. And then it occurred to me that our latest issue of Cooks Illustrated featured an article on sautéed sugar snap peas, which seemed like a good place to start.
Once I zeroed in on the ingredients, I was hooked! Pine nuts (love ’em), fennel seed (oh yeah), lemon zest (you bet), garlic, red pepper flakes and fresh basil, all winners! Of course there was no mention of asparagus, but since I didn’t have enough snap peas to start with, I decided to combine the two. This was also a teaching moment because I found out the combination of herbs and spices is called a dukka—an Egyptian condiment made of finely chopped nuts, seeds, and seasonings… and now I can pass this knowledge on to you…
The toasted pine nuts and fennel seeds before they are chopped.
Starting to finely chop the nuts, seeds, lemon zest and red pepper flakes.
Recipe title: Sugar Snap Peas with Pine Nuts, Fennel Seed and Lemon Zest. Insert the word “Asparagus” and I’m good to go! To ensure that the pods and peas cook through at the same rate, use a hybrid method that steams the sugar snap peas and asparagus briefly before sautéing them; the trapped steam transfers heat more efficiently than air does so that the veggies cook through more quickly.
Cutting the peas in half and the asparagus at a strong angle, further reduces the cooking time, so the pea pods retain more of their snap, and the pockets capture the seasonings rather than letting them slide to the bottom of the platter. Sprinkling the veggies with the dukka dresses up the simple preparation with distinct (but not overwhelming) flavor and crunch.
This veggie side dish is really, really good! Some other seasoning combinations could be: almonds, coriander seed and orange zest; or sesame seeds, fresh ginger and lemon zest. Because I always tend to measure seasonings on the broader scale, we had enough dukka leftover for a future vegetable side, so I put it in a small ziploc in the freezer until ready to use.
The ingredients prepped and measured.
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 12 ounces sugar snap peas, strings removed, halved crosswise on bias
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Our snap pea and asparagus side paired with a salmon patty.
Do not substitute ground fennel for the fennel seeds in this recipe.
- Toast pine nuts in 12-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add fennel seeds and continue to toast, stirring constantly, until pine nuts are lightly browned and fennel is fragrant, about 1 minute longer.
- Transfer pine nut mixture to cutting board. Sprinkle lemon zest, salt, and pepper flakes over pine nut mixture. Chop mixture until finely minced and well combined. Transfer to bowl and set aside.
- Heat oil in now-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add snap peas and water, immediately cover, and cook for 2 minutes.
- Uncover, add garlic, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until moisture has evaporated and snap peas are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes longer.
- Remove skillet from heat; stir in three-quarters of pine nut mixture and basil. Transfer snap peas to serving platter, sprinkle with remaining pine nut mixture, and serve.