As area farmer’s markets open this month for business, seasonal produce is gradually unveiled, starting out sparse only to unfold into a bounty of lush produce later this summer. After an especially harsh winter, market shoppers turn out in droves to snatch up the first tender offerings from the spring garden, and local vendors do not disappoint.
Lanky, verdant spears of asparagus and juicy strawberries have dominated the market scene of late and drawn their due crowd. Part of the fun in these early weeks at market is exploring what new offerings appear each week as the soil yields to a warmer climate. On a recent trip I unearthed several small bushels of shelled spring peas when I ventured away from the crowds. In a small corner of one stand sat a treasure trove of emerald pearls delicately piled inside pint size boxes. Carrying my loot back to the car, I was quite pleased with myself for discovering the limited stash of peas and immediately began to brainstorm ways to use them.
Tired of the quintessential spring pea soup recipe that appears in just about every food magazine this time of year, I pondered more creative ways to utilize these little gems. Remembering a recipe I came across several years ago for guacamole, which suggested supplementing green peas for lack of avocado, I set to work. Mashing the just barely cooked peas with a ripe avocado imbued the stunning green mixture with an almost silken texture. Into this soft puree I infused diced tomatoes, red onion, lime juice, parsley, sesame and olive oils which created a flavor dynamic of bright, vibrant notes on the palate. The peas were no longer a one-dimensional example of their sweet, starchy little selves but an unsuspecting addition in a spritely dip.
The guacamole is delicious as a topping for crostini, but I took it one step further and served it as an accompaniment to seared scallops. The balance of sweetness and acidity in the recipe proved to be the perfect compliment to the caramelized shellfish, and would no doubt work beautifully with any type of grilled fish.
I can’t promise that spring peas will be available the next time you venture to your local farmer’s market, but with this recipe in hand they are certainly worth seeking out.
1.5 C shelled sweet peas
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
2 small plum tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
½ small red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
juice of 1 lime
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil and cook the peas for two minutes. Drain the liquid off the peas then immediately rinse them under cold water until they have reached room temperature. Strain away any remaining liquid then pulse the peas and avocado in a food processor just to combine. Fold the remaining ingredients into the puree and refrigerate until ready to use.