It’s springtime and what veggie exemplifies this season of rebirth more than fresh peas? Sadly true in some cases, many people think peas are just a cheap restaurant side dish that adds some ‘green’ to your plate. In reality, they are little powerhouses of nutrition that are a boon for your health and the whole planet.
In the weight management arena, peas are low-fat but high-everything-else. A cup of peas has less than 100 calories but lots of protein, fiber and micronutrients. Coming from peas’ strong anti-inflammatory properties are prevention of a whole host of issues including wrinkles, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, bronchitis, osteoporosis and candida.
Here’s an interesting fact, although considered a vegetable, green peas really are a fruit since they contain seeds developed from a flower—bet you didn’t know that! And our neighbor Canada is the largest producer of peas in the world. These little green wonders have such high-quality protein that many commercial protein powders are starting to use it to avoid the possible side effects of soy or dairy products.
So I’m giving you two different recipes in one blog highlighting peas as the centerpiece of each dish. First, is the Peas and Prosciutto Salad (below) that we served with our roast leg of lamb for Easter Dinner. Russ found it in our recent Bon Appétit magazine and thought it would make a perfect starter while the lamb rested after coming out of the oven. Topping it off with grated fresh horseradish over the salad adds a wonderful pop of flavor so don’t omit it.
This Peas and Prosciutto Salad combines both blanched fresh peas from the pod and sugar snap peas.
Peas are a perfect match with ham and cream, and together, they create a fast but luxurious sauce in the second recipe of Creamy Linguine with Peas, Ham, and Sage. If you don’t like sage, (seriously?) feel free to leave it out or substitute another herb, such as thyme or tarragon.
If like me, you’re concerned about the high fat content and calories in heavy cream, you can slim it down a notch, while keeping in mind the flavor and texture of the recipe may be slightly different than you would get using heavy cream. *For each cup of heavy cream in the recipe, melt 1/3 cup of unsalted butter and add it to ¾ cup of milk. (Note that if you use low-fat milk, you will want to add 1 tablespoon of flour to thicken the mixture.) Just melt the butter and let cool, then blend in a bowl with the milk. Stir until well mixed.
Alternatively, for each 1 cup of heavy cream in a recipe, you can use a substitute of butter and half-and-half. *Melt 1/6 cup of butter and allow it to cool. Be sure it does not solidify during the cooling process. Put 7/8 cup of half-and-half into a bowl and stir in the cool melted butter until they are well blended.
TIP: Before you drain the pasta and peas, you’re instructed to reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water (which I didn’t end up needing, although you may.) In prior recipes that required I save some of the pasta water, I unintentionally drained it all away, so putting a measuring cup in the strainer will remind you to reserve some of the liquid before you drain.
My instincts told me to add more sage (one of Russ’ favorite herbs) and some lemon zest to brighten up the dish. Unfortunately, all I had on hand was a half of a lemon that was already zested, so I just squeezed the juice over our plates and it did indeed add a bright note. Your call if you want to do the same.
Peas and Prosciutto Salad
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 1¼ cups shelled fresh green peas (from about 1¼ pounds pods), or frozen peas, thawed
- 12 ounces sugar snap peas (about 3 cups), trimmed
- 4 ounces arugula, tough stems removed (about 6 packed cups)
- 4 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
- Knob of fresh horseradish, peeled (for serving)
- Whisk lemon juice and mustard in a large bowl. Gradually add oil, whisking constantly until emulsified; season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
- Working in batches, cook green peas and sugar snap peas in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes per batch. Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water and swoosh peas around until cold; this sets their color and halts the cooking. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
- Add green peas, sugar snap peas, and arugula to bowl with vinaigrette and toss until well coated with dressing; season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange salad on a platter and top with prosciutto. Finely grate horseradish over salad to your liking.
Creamy Linguine with Peas, Ham, and Sage
- 12 oz. fresh linguine (or fettuccine)
- 1-1/2 cups shelled fresh peas or frozen peas, thawed
- 2 cups heavy cream, or substitute as noted above*
- 1 heaping Tbs. chopped fresh sage, more to taste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 oz. ham, cut into bite-size pieces
- 1-1/2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, more for serving
- Lemon zest, optional
- Cook the linguine in boiling salted water according to package directions until al dente, adding the peas about 2 minutes before the pasta is done. Reserve 1/2 cup of the water and drain the pasta.
- Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet, simmer the cream, sage, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Turn the heat down to medium, add the drained pasta and peas, ham, and Parmigiano; toss to combine and heat through. Add some of the cooking water to loosen the pasta, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve topped with more Parmigiano.
Adapted from Caroline Campion and Kathy Brennan of Fine Cooking