March 28th, 2013 § § permalink
Beyond chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and marshmallow chicks, I’ve never associated a specific food with Easter. When I was a kid, my mother would occasionally bake a ham pricked with cloves and draped with pineapple rings. Served alongside creamy scalloped potatoes and peas, it was the closest that my family ever came to a traditional, home cooked, Easter meal.
More often than not, on Easter Sunday we went out for brunch. Some years we hit an upscale buffet brimming with glistening Danishes, steamy scrabbled eggs, roast beef and shrimp cocktail. Other times we enjoyed a sit down meal of fruit- and cream cheese-stuffed French toast, eggs Benedict or chicken divan. Once again, there was no set cuisine or, for that matter, locale.
Oddly enough, I’ve married into a family that likewise celebrates this holiday with brunch. Taking into account that recurring meal, I’d like to share a fresh, easy, brunch offering, Spring Vegetable Frittata.
It may sound fancy but a frittata is nothing more than the Italian version of a French omelet. With omelets you fold cooked eggs over such fillings as cheese, onions or greens. In frittatas you mix these ingredients with the eggs and cook them together, leaving the dish open-face and finishing off it beneath a broiler. It’s a bit like a quiche but without the buttery crust and, in my recipe, cream.
SPRING VEGETABLE FRITTATA
Spring heralds the return of such seasonal treats as porcini/cepes mushrooms, leeks, spinach and tarragon. However, if you cannot find fresh tarragon, you can substitute dried.
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces porcini/cepes mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 large leek, whites and 1-inch greens chopped
2 cups firmly packed baby spinach, stems removed and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
8 large eggs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon OR 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/3 cup grated Romano cheese
Making sure that the oven rack is directly beneath the broiler, preheat your oven broiler.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they have softened slightly, 2 minutes. Add the leek, spinach, salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables have softened, 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in large, oven-safe pan over medium heat. Swirl the oil so that the pan is coated completely.
As the oil is heating, whisk the eggs, tarragon and cheese together in a large bowl. Add the sautéed vegetables to the eggs and whisk to combine. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and allow the eggs to cook until they’ve set and the bottom of the frittata has browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Place the pan under the broiler and broil until the top of the frittata has puffed up and become golden brown in color, about 1 minute. Remove and serve immediately.
November 20th, 2012 § § permalink
The countdown to turkey day has begun! Rather than take up valuable shopping and cooking time talking about the history of Thanksgiving side dishes, this year I’ll share a few recipes for easy and fabulous offerings. Whether you’re hosting a huge feast for family and friends, traveling to a potluck or holding an intimate dinner for two, the following sides will surely satisfy. For additional Thanksgiving recipes, check out Kitchen Kat’s 2011 entry on Taking Sides for Turkey Day.
HONEY-GLAZED ROOT VEGETABLES
1 rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 celery root (celeriac), peeled and cubed
1 parsnip, peeled and cubed
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons honey
2 large carrots, peeled and cubed
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Place the rutabaga, celery root and parsnip in a pan of lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
Melt the butter in a frying pan. Tumble in the rutabaga, celery root and parsnip cubes and drizzle honey over them. Saute for 5 minutes, until they have turned golden in color. Add the carrot and cook and the vegetables are tender but not overly soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley and serve.
“TOP” (TURNIP-ONION-POTATO) CASSEROLE
Serves 4 to 6
2 turnips, trimmed and cut into chunks
1 large red onion, cut in half and then quartered
1 large yellow onion, cut in half and then quartered
1 yam, peeled and cut into chunks
1 Idaho potato, peeled and cut into chunks
3 red bliss potatoes, washed and quartered
1 large orange bell pepper, cut into chunks
8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1/3 cup olive oil
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 ounces Haloumi cheese, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Coat the interior of a baking dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the vegetables and then drizzle the remaining olive oil over them. Season with pepper and then toss to coat evenly.
Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until the vegetables have browned slightly.
Remove the baking dish from the oven. Turn the broiler on medium.
Spread the sliced Haloumi over the vegetables and return to the top rack of the oven. Broil until the cheese has melted and browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
6 pounds cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
4 tablespoons olive oil
11/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Good-quality aged balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl toss together the cauliflower, olive oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Spread the cauliflower evenly over a large baking sheet. Roast, turning the florets periodically, until they become soft and golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top and serve.
October 19th, 2012 § § permalink
I can’t let autumn pass by without mentioning that amazing, globular fall fruit known as the pumpkin. Ranging in size from two to a whopping 800 pounds, this hefty fellow was once relegated to seasonal pies and decor. Today, though, I keep this low-fat, low-calorie, firm-fleshed gourd in my kitchen long past Thanksgiving.
Although I lack the green thumb and good soil to grow pumpkins, thanks to friends who have both, I’ve learned a thing or two about harvesting a great pumpkin. A trailing plant, this winter squash needs space to grow. It likewise requires temperate weather and regular watering.
Mature at 16 weeks, a pumpkin can be picked and stored whole in a cool, dry, dark place for several months. When cut, it must be refrigerated and used within a few days.
How to use a freshly cut pumpkin? I love turning it into a silky puree. After removing the seeds, I put the pumpkin halves, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle a half cup of water over them. I then put the pan in my oven, which has been preheated to 375F, and roast the pieces until tender. Depending on the size of the pumpkin, this takes between 30 to 45 minutes.
Once the halves have cooled, I scrape the flesh from the skin and place it either in the bowl of my food processor or a regular mixing bowl. Based upon the amount of roasted pumpkin, I add several tablespoons of butter – usually one tablespoon per eight ounces of flesh – and process or mash with a big wooden spoon until smooth.
For savory purees I might toss in some dried thyme, minced garlic, salt and pepper. For sweet ones I might include a dash of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and honey, brown sugar or maple syrup to taste. Both benefit from a splash of room temperature whipping cream stirred in before serving.
Last weekend I ordered a fabulous pumpkin puree, pumpkin hummus, at one of my favorite local, seasonal restaurants, Back Forty West. Below is my take on this dish. To save time and the mess, I’ve substituted canned pure pumpkin for fresh.
Serves 2 to 4
15 ounces pure pumpkin
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons tahini
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
pinch of ground sumac, for garnish
In the bowl of a blender or food processor place the pumpkin, garlic, tahini, pepper, all spice, paprika, salt and 3 tablespoons oil and puree until smooth. Spoon into a bowl, sprinkle the top with ground sumac and extra-virgin olive oil and serve.
October 12th, 2012 § § permalink
You may have heard that I have a sweet tooth. In truth I have 36 that hold sway over what I eat each day. As a result, when I hear custard, I imagine chocolate-topped eclairs, coconut-flecked pies and syrup-soaked creme caramels. All cloyingly sweet treats that should catapult me into hyperglycemia.
For a recent assignment I had to create several savory, rather than sweet, custard recipes. The experience made me consider the foods that I overlook as a result of my sugar obsession. Seasoned custard is undoubtedly one of them.
By definition custard is a blend of eggs and milk thickened either by baking or simmering on the stove. On its own it tastes exactly like its ingredients, eggs and milk. With the addition of fruit, spices, cheese, vegetables, seafood or meat custard becomes lusciously flavorful.
Derived from the French word croustade, custard is the foundation for such classic sweets as creme brulee, flan, clafoutis and galaktoboureko. It also serves as the basis for such savory dishes as quiche, timbale and chawanmushi.
As you might expect from such a mild food, custard marries beautifully with a host of diverse ingredients. These include caramel, cheese, cherries, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, thyme, pumpkin, raspberries, sweet potatoes, nuts, liqueurs and wine. It also compliments lemon, maple syrup, mushrooms, prunes and raisins, shallots, yellow and white onions, smoked salmon and vanilla.
The following baked custards have usurped my usual custard-oozing eclairs and pies as favored treats. Serve these as appetizers or show-stopping sides or eat them straight from the oven, standing at your kitchen counter wielding spoons and hot pads, as my husband and I do.
SMOKY CORN CUSTARDS
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups frozen corn
2 tablespoons minced shallot (about 1 small shallot)
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups reduced fat milk
3/4 teaspoon smoked sea salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 4 (5-ounce) ramekins or ovenproof bowls.
Melt the unsalted butter in a medium sauté pan. Add the corn, shallots and red pepper sauté until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
In a large bowl or pitcher whisk together the eggs, milk, half of the salt and black pepper. Add the corn sauté and whisk again to combine.
Pour the custard mixture into the greased ramekins. Place the ramekins in a baking pan filled about a third full of water; the water should come halfway up the ramekins.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the custards have puffed up and browned slightly. Sprinkle the remaining smoked salt over the tops. Serve hot.
September 27th, 2012 § § permalink
Stop to admire a friend’s flourishing fall garden and you may walk away with an armload of autumn vegetables. This happened to me two weekends ago when I visited college friends in Lancaster County, Pa. Although I had gone to Amish country empty-handed, I returned home with bags of homegrown pumpkins and butternut squash. Unquestionably, I was grateful for the unexpected gifts but I was also at a loss for what to do with all this food.
Considered by many cooks to be the best winter squash, the bowling pin-shaped butternut possesses a tough, smooth, tan skin. Cut into the skin with a heavy, serrated knife and you’ll find creamy, orange, fragrant flesh. Some compare its sweet, rich flavor to sweet potatoes while others liken it to roasted chestnuts. To me it tastes like butternut squash.
A versatile vegetable, this squash goes nicely with savory foods such as bacon, anchovies, cheese, garlic and onions. It also compliments such sweets as brown sugar, coconut, maple syrup, vanilla and yams.
In spite of its versatility I tend to use butternut squash in a limited number of recipes. Because it bakes, braises and mashes well, I feature it in gratins, soups, mashes and purees. While these are all great dishes, I should broaden my use of this lovely, low-calorie, high fiber veggie. I should expand my squash repertoire.
Cashing in on the vegetable’s sweetness, I turned some of my squash stash into muffins. As you might expect from a baked good dubbed “butter-nut-squash,” the following muffins include butter, nuts and squash.
Makes 2 dozen
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 2/3 cups grated butternut squash (from 1/2 small squash)
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
4 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 2 (12-cup) muffin pans and set aside.
In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Add the squash and nuts and toss to coat.
In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, butter, milk and vanilla. Once the liquids are well-blended, add them to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Don’t overmix the lumpy batter.
Spoon the batter into the greased muffin cups and bake for 20 to 22 minutes; when finished, the muffins will be golden brown on top. Remove the pans from the oven and allow the muffins to stand for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pans and, placing them on a wire rack, allow them to cool before serving.
August 16th, 2012 § § permalink
Last week I owned up to my dearth of gardening skills. What I lack in ability, I more than make up for in my enthusiasm for others’ horticultural handiness. So, when a friend invited me on a foraging walk last weekend, I jumped at the chance. I mean, really, who has a greener thumb than Mother Nature?
As you might expect from someone who blundered through gardening, I struggle with identifying wild edibles. Set set me loose in the forest to collect stinging nettles or chanterelles, I’m likely to pull out a clump of poison ivy or toxic jack o’ lantern mushrooms. Obviously, these are not the ingredients of a lovely soup or sauté. However, if you put me in charge of foraging, these are what you might receive. Yeah, I need to learn a bit about harmless versus deadly wild plants.
Led by naturalist Steve Brill, the ecology walk featured such wholesome plants as garlic mustard, wild ginger and purslane. Things that I had dubbed “worthless weeds” and yanked from my overgrown garden likewise made appearances. Had I known that delicate lemon wood sorel possessed such a pleasing citrus flavor, I would have added it to salads instead of to our overflowing compost bin.
Greens weren’t the only foods found. The woods were dotted with crab apple, black cherry and persimmon trees. All that fruit, right at our fingertips. The squat, shrubby spicebush also popped up along our path and offered multiple culinary uses. I could pour hot water over the leaves for tea or chop up the hard, red berries to flavor quick breads and other baked goods.
Although I enjoyed learning about these edibles, what I longed to see were elderberries. Found throughout North America, Europe and Western Asia, these tiny, black berries make tart and tasty jellies, sauces, syrups, chutneys, pies and soups. Because they contain a small amount of a toxic alkaloid, elderberries should be cooked before being consumed. Nonetheless, on the walk we all sampled a raw one or two. So far, so good.
While elderberries hung heavy from their slender branches, I still couldn’t collect enough to cook. However, the next time that I come across a half-pint of these berries at a farmer’s market, I’ll whip up the following pies.
INDIVIDUAL APPLE-ELDERBERRY PIES
Here the winey tang of elderberry pairs with the tart sweetness of apple for these delicious, open-faced pies.
5 medium-size Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled and diced
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
1 cup elderberries
2 sheets phyllo, defrosted
1/4 cup butter, melted
Confectioner’s sugar, for decorating
Vanilla ice cream, optional
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 6-cup muffin pan.
Place the apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and water in a medium-size saucepan and bring the contents to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until apples are soft. Add the elderberries and stir to combine. Strain the mixture, reserving the liquid. Allow to cool.
Cut the phyllo into 24 squares, each measuring 4 inches by 4 inches. Cover the squares with a damp cloth. Take one square and brush the top with butter. Place another square at an angle on top of this square and brush the second square with butter. Repeat the steps with two more squares; you will have a stack of four overlapping squares. Place the buttered, overlapping squares into a greased muffin cup. Repeat these steps with the remaining phyllo squares.
Spoon the apple-elderberry filling into the pastries, filling each to the top. Bake the pies for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, return the cooking liquid to the saucepan and cook until it thickens into a syrup. When the pies have finished baking, cool them for 5 to 10 minutes before gently removing them from the pan. Place each one on a plate, spoon the syrup over the top, dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.
August 9th, 2012 § § permalink
After years of kidding myself that one day I’d grow bushels of pert tomatoes and eggplants at our suburban Philadelphia farmhouse, I’m finally throwing in the towel on gardening. It’s never helped matters that I’m not there enough to consistently weed and water a garden or that every vegetable planted feeds not my family and friends but those of groundhogs and deer. There’s another reason, though, behind my bailing out on horticulture. Truthfully, I’m a lousy gardener who can’t even keep the lowest maintenance plants—garlic, onions, potatoes—alive.
In spite of my black thumb each August I find myself wondering what to do with all the season’s produce. Gardeners can’t seem to give the stuff away. Well, actually, they can and do but, as the overwhelmed recipient, I often find myself wanting to give it back. Such is the case with corn.
The problem with corn is that I never receive just four or five ears. Whether I drop by my favorite farmer’s market or a friend’s backyard garden, I invariably leave with at least a dozen ears of freshly picked corn. This is a wonderful gift on nights when I’m cooking for six or more people but not so great when I’m making a meal for two.
What to do with all this corn? Over the years I’ve dropped countless ears into pots of boiling water or onto hot grills. I’ve sliced off the kernels and made them into sautés, casseroles, stews and soups. Corn bread and muffins? Been there and done that so many times. The same can be said for corn relishes, salsas, puddings and flans. While I’ve not ground my own cornmeal for polenta, I have run the kernels through my food processor and made tasty corn purees. Yet, on nights when I’m out of ideas for that mound of shucked corn, I turn to the following standby.
WARM SUMMER CORN SALAD
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 large garlic clove, grated
4 cups fresh corn kernels
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
11/2 teaspoons minced fresh basil
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the butter in a medium sauté pan. Add the garlic and sauté until softened but not browned, 2 minutes.
Add the corn and pepper, toss to combine, and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the basil and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
July 13th, 2012 § § permalink
If you follow Kitchen Kat, you may recall the rocky beginnings that I’ve had with baked potatoes, fish and peas. Add to that list green beans. Beans suffered the same fate as the other troublesome foods. They were crisp and green in the afternoon, when my mother and I sat in the backyard, snapping off the uneven ends and tossing the trimmed veggies into colanders. By dinnertime they had become squishy and bland, the result of an hour spent bubbling away in a stockpot.
Complaints about texture and flavor led to the addition of ham to the pot. Instead of rectifying the problem ham only added to it. Now, rather than just limp, tasteless beans I also had to slip hunks of tough, grayish meat to the family dog. Mushy beans she could handle. Leathery ham? Not so much.
Eventually canned beans replaced fresh. Although canned vegetables wouldn’t normally be a treat, these particular ones were. To dress up the beans’ drab look and flavor, my mother would stir in a dollop of Cheez Whiz before serving. As unpalatable as they sound today, those salty, saucy, albeit pulpy, beans were a highpoint of family meals.
In spite of my love for this quirky dish I never whipped up cheesy green beans for myself. The shame of cooking canned beans and Cheez Whiz was simply too much. Left with bad memories of fresh ones, I stopped eating green beans altogether.
Thanks to cooking classes and a desire to give these Vitamin A- and C-filled vegetables another shot, I’ve added green beans to my dinner repertoire. Steamed or simmered until crisply tender, which should take three to five minutes, they’re a lovely addition to any menu.
Available year-round, green beans peak in the summer months. Look for slender, bright colored, crisp and blemish-free vegetables. You can store fresh, tightly wrapped beans for up to five days in the refrigerator.
HAZELNUT HARICOT VERT
Serves 4 to 6
1 pound fresh French green beans, ends trimmed
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup blanched hazelnuts, toasted
Sea salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
Shaved Parmesan cheese, for garnish and to taste
Using a steamer basket placed over a lidded stockpot, steam the haricot verts for 3 to 4 minutes or until bright green and crisply tender. Remove from heat and plunge the beans into a bowl of iced water.
In a small bowl whisk together the lemon zest and juice, garlic, chives and olive oil.
Drain and dry the beans. In a large bowl toss together the beans, dressing, tomatoes, hazelnuts, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings before adorning with shaved Parmesan cheese and serving.
May 10th, 2012 § § permalink
A month ago if you had asked how my hometown sets itself apart from other regions and their cuisines, I would have struggled to come up with an answer. To me, the Pittsburgh area has long been a melting pot of ethnic specialties. Pizza, pierogies, pita and souvlaki all played a part in shaping my palate.
Then I took a trip back home and was reminded how much Pittsburghers like their fries. I admit, most people like a good, crisp, golden french fry. How many, though, slip them inside breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees? Where I grew up, a lot do.
As my college roommate reminded me over a shrimp salad served atop fries, we were raised on salads with deep-fried potatoes tucked in between the lettuce leaves. Then there were the odd omelets filled with cheese, meat and french fries. And how could I forget Primanti Bros.’s fry- and coleslaw-stuffed sandwiches, which I still insist on having any time that I’m in Pittsburgh.
Why fries on the inside? Well, there are fewer plates to wash if you don’t serve them as a side. Pick them up between two slices of bread and you forgo the greasy fingers. Yet, I doubt that these are the reasons why. I’ll chalk it up to a happy accident—someone tried it, liked it, served it to someone else and the rest is history.
In my health-conscious family we didn’t eat fries, in or alongside entrees, very often. Delightfully salty and oily, they were a rare treat, one that my mother left to those possessing fryolators and serious grease burns.
Unfortunately, I haven’t strayed far from her stance. Want savory, fried potatoes at my house? Unless you bring your own french fries, you’ll probably eat the following side dish. Slipping them into your salad, sandwich or omelet is optional.
CRISPY ROSEMARY POTATOES
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, quartered, and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Place the potatoes in medium-sized stockpot filled with boiling salted water. Boil until the potatoes are slightly tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set aside.
In a large frying or sauté pan heat the olive oil on medium-high.
Add the potatoes and cook, tossing periodically, until browned, 15 minutes.
Add the garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper, stir to combine, and cook for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Serve immediately.
April 19th, 2012 § § permalink
I’ve spent a lifetime struggling to like peas. My aversion to this vegetable started early, when my mother opened that first store-bought can of them. Withered and grayish-green, they resembled one of the oldest vegetables in existence, which, in fact, they are. Robbed of their natural sweet succulence as well as any helpful seasonings, they likewise tasted as though they’d hung out in their can for centuries.
Had my subsequent experiences been tastier I may not have loathed peas so. Yet, each time I forced down spoonfuls of these bland, boiled terrors, I came to the same conclusion—nothing, not even the addition of cheery yet eerily symmetrical carrots, could make me like these shriveled veggies.
Things became complicated when I married a man who loved my nemeses. On paper I could see why he liked them. Chocked full of vitamins A and C, niacin, iron, fiber and protein, they’re highly healthful. They also have a huge following, one which claims that, when plucked fresh from the garden, peas are sweet, crisp and utterly delightful. Unfortunately, in my experience they had come not from my father’s short-lived garden or a local farm stand but from the canned goods aisle of the neighborhood grocery store. It would take more than nutrition and good press to change my opinion about peas.
What it took was a trip to England. Say what you will about British cuisine but the cooks there know how to prepare peas, especially mushy peas. Found in pubs as well as restaurants, these roughly mashed, emerald orbs were the antithesis of my childhood veg. Laced with butter, salt, pepper and a smidgen of creme fraiche, they were luscious, flavorful and, for the first time in my life, enjoyable—so enjoyable that I started requesting them in restaurants and making my own at home.
As one might expect, the key to good peas, mushy or otherwise, is good peas. If fresh aren’t available, go for frozen. Having learned from experience, I avoid canned at all costs.
Fresh peas are at their peak from March through May. If you buy them in their pods, look for plump, unbruised and bright green ones. Leave them in their shells until just before cooking. Be sure to use fresh peas as soon as possible; their sugars quickly convert to starch, giving them the drab, unpleasant flavor that I long associated with them.
MR. GLICKMAN’S GARLIC PEA PUREE
Because I’ve made these garlicky mushy peas countless times for my friend Elliot, they have become more or less his dish.
Serves 4 to 6
10 to 12 garlic cloves, peeled
5 cups frozen or fresh peas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 to 4 tablespoons creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sea salt, to taste
Bring a medium saucepan filled with water and garlic to a boil. Cook until the cloves have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the peas and cook for 10 minutes or until quite tender.
Drain and place the vegetables in a food processor or blender. Add the butter, creme fraiche, pepper and salt and pulse until combined but still chunky. Serve warm.