Sunday, April 18, 2010

Peas and Lettuce with Mint

Peas and mint always feel very English to me but I have also enjoyed this striking pair as a puree with ravioli served with Mario Batalli’s famous beef cheeks.  It’s a genius combination.  In this side dish version, delicate lettuce leaves add a wonderful additional texture.  Don’t skimp on the mint; it is essential and if you haven’t used mint in many savory dishes, a real find.

When you have access to fresh peas and Bibb lettuce, this is the dish with which to exalt.  Frozen petite peas can stand in until the garden grows or your farmers market opens its gates.  No Bibb lettuce (Boston or butter)?  Romaine lettuce or baby spinach can be used instead.  And leftovers transform into a terrific soup the next day. 

Peas and Lettuce with Mint
Serves 4 as a side dish

2 cups peas
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 tablespoon cream
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a medium sauce pan with a tablespoon or two of water, cook peas until almost tender over medium heat.  
  2. Add remaining ingredients, lower and cover.  
  3. Cook an additional 2 minutes then stir.  When lettuce has wilted, the dish is ready.
If you make a double batch of the pea and lettuce recipe you can use the leftovers to create Pea and Lettuce Soup for two.   Pea soup is often forgotten once the weather turns warm and heartier soups are abandoned.  Just as satisfying as its winter counterpart, fresh pea soup is lighter but still a nice filling dish that can be eaten hot or cold.  

Fresh Pea and Lettuce Soup
2 cups total cooked fresh peas and lettuce
3/4-1 cup broth
2 ounces low fat milk
extra mint

  1. Place leftover peas and lettuce in a blender or food processor.  Add just enough vegetable or chicken broth to cover and pulse or blend until finely pureed.  
  2. Press soup through a strainer if you’d like a really smooth soup.  Add a touch of low fat milk and more fresh mint.  Enjoy this pure spring flavored soup hot or cold.

How to Make Quick Vegetable Broth
Make vegetable broth when the items in your vegetable drawer are looking a little tired.  There is still plenty of flavor and nutrition there and a quick broth will draw that out.  Use vegetable broth where you would meat-based broths, in soups and stews, to make rice and as a base for sauces. 

2 stalks celery
1 medium onion
2 carrot
2 plum tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon black pepper corns
Salt (added at end)

  1. Scrub celery and carrots.  Peel onion.  Rinse tomatoes and parsley.  Chop vegetables  coarsely.  
  2. Place vegetables in a large microwave safe bowl with 1/2 cup water.  Cover loosely and microwave on high to wilt the vegetables.   
  3. Add herbs, peppercorns and 1 1/2 cups water and microwave loosely covered on medium for 6-10 minutes.  
  4. When broth has achieved a light rose-tan color, drain vegetables and taste.  Add salt in small increments if desired
Note: It is also perfectly fine to make this broth from fresher vegetables.