Monday, April 15, 2013

Yes, Peas Please!

I am now absolutely convinced that it is spring. There was a little false start a few weeks ago , and I think I blogged about it. But now I know for sure. How? The jasmine vine is a green, pink and white cascade along the backyard fence and it's sweet fragrance wisps in through the open kitchen window, subtle enough to remind me to stop whatever it is I'm doing and indulge myself in a few long, thoughtful deep breaths.

Peas and asparagus are beckoning as I shop my favorite farmers' market and that only confirms that spring surely has sprung! I'm happily incorporating them into every menu I can, taking advantage of a fleeting spring pleasure.

Growing up, I had a not so great relationship with peas and asparagus. My mother dealt with vegetables in one singular fashion - she pulled out her trusty can opener. [Heavy sigh...] Martha Washington brand canned asparagus was among her favorites, and to get my sibs and me to actually eat the limp spears, Mom created a game. "Pick up the asparagus, and if you get the tip in your mouth before the spear drops, make a wish and it will come true." Of course, the first buy-in on our part was that we were allowed to eat with our fingers, and the wish granting didn't hurt.
Not Martha Washington's but canned just the same!

But no amount of finger-lickin' dining and potentially granted wishes (I never did get that Barbie tree house) could make up for that fact that Martha Washington canned asparagus tasted like crap, plain and simple. Chloe, the dachshund who loved our lima beans, wouldn't touch a Martha Washington if her life depended on it.

Peas fared somewhat better in our household, thanks to Mom's discovery of the frozen Birdseye brand. Served with a healthy dose of margarine, they were a palatable alternative to any can Mom could open. But it was a particular buffet server at the San Gabriel Country Club who really opened up the world of peas for me.

We were always invited to share Easter dinner with the Ryans, our Great Aunt Clara and Great Uncle George, a childless couple who lived in San Marino,one of the tonier suburbs of Los Angeles. Aunt Clara had been a school teacher in a previous life, and a rather strict one at that, so my brother, sister and I were always on our absolute best behavior when dining with her. She would introduce us, proudly in an austere way, to her friends at the club. We three would smile and say, "How do you do?", shake hands and then salivate until we could get into the buffet line.

Though the culinary offerings of the buffet line were intriguing, the servers were pretty staid and boring, barely making eye contact with the guests as they passed each station.That all changed when a new gentleman was put in charge of the vegetables. "Peeeeeass, with meeeent?!" Peas with mint? It sounded so earthy and hip and herbal to a 12 year old in 1970.  His enthusiasm for his offering was contagious, his smile wide and inviting, and I happily allowed him to add a buttery (REAL butter!) bright green helping to my plate. He then smiled as he announced to the next guest in line, "Peeeeeass with meeeent?!"

What have peas and mint done for me lately? When my friend and fellow chef, Kathi Morris Harvey, posted about Pea & Mint Crostini on her Facebook page, I just couldn't resist. The combo of sweet peas and mint, with a hint of Parmesan, just screams "San Gabriel Country Club" and will surely bring a big smile to anyone enjoying it!

Pea and Mint Pesto Crostini with Goat Cheese
adapted from Giada De Laurentis, 2009

    • 1 package frozen peas (10-ounce) defrosted
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, or a little bit more to taste
    • juice of one lemon, plus the zest
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more for taste
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
    • 1/3 cup olive oil

    • 1 baguette,  sliced on the diagonal
    • Olive oil
    • 4-8 ounces goat cheese


  • For the pea pesto

    1. Add the peas, Parmesan, garlic, fresh mint, lemon juice and zest, and salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse to combine. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until well combined, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  • For the crostini

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and bake until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes.
    2. Spread some goat cheese on each crostini and top with a dollop of the pea and mint pesto. Garnish with a chiffonade of fresh mint, chopped pine nuts, sliced cherry tomoatoes or any colorful combo you'd like.

PS - Remember Chiffon margarine? We actually dined with Mother Nature, Dena Dietrich,who was a member of the San Gabriel Country Club. We NEVER tried to fool her, believe me! It's not nice to fool Mother Nature video
I grew up with margarine. eating buttered peas with
mint at the SGCC was such a treat!

No comments:

Post a Comment