That’s peas with an A. An A, so you can stop your sniggering, you. (or am I the only one here who still has a third grade sense of humor in this regard?)
Anyway…The farm we get our vegetable share from offers pick-your-own _____ several times during the course of the season for a small variety of vegetables and fruits. Just a little while back, we scurried out there to catch the tail end of strawberry picking.
The very tail end. I don’t know if strawberries can ever be considered dregs – they’re so precious! – but there was not much left out there in the fields. We spent a couple of hours on our hands and knees, scrabbling and rummaging and getting excited over every single non-moldy find, trying to fill up our baskets.
The peas, though, were another story entirely. After we grew too weary to reach for any more low-lying strawberries, we mosied over to the pea patch to see what we could see. What we saw was a wild jungle of tangled pea tendrils, cascading with dangling pods, so pudgy they looked fit to burst.
In a single leisurely stroll up and down the patch, we filled several pints with sugar snaps to tote home with us. And we’ve been eating them by the fistful ever since.
Mostly we’ve just snacked on them raw. Sugar snap peas are perfectly named – whoever came up with the name was either not super creative or deserves an award for brillian design/branding. Their pods are crisp, but tender, and snap energetically between your fingers or teeth. The peas tucked inside are sweet, almost floral.
But, as we ate our way down to the last pint of peas we’d picked (next we’ll obviously have to work on packing a peck of pickled peppers), I figured maybe, just maybe, I should prepare them at least one other way, while we had them. (And just adding dip didn’t count.)
I’ve seen a number of recipes for sugar snap peas in which, similarly to snow peas, they are sauteed and augmented with some soy sauce and rice wine, maybe some sesame. Which is good, I can attest, but, I wasn’t feeling it. I had turmeric on the brain.
I’ve been adding turmeric to my salad dressings a lot lately because it’s a potent anti-inflammatory (meaning, it helps – in at least some small way – to prevent a number of different chronic diseases, especially of the auto-immune sort). And it doesn’t hurt that it tastes good, earthy and warm, a little mustardy. In my salad dressing, it blends effortlessly with the flavors of mustard and a fresh grind of black pepper.
So, I decided to give our peas the turmeric treatment: a quick sautee with the spice along with some minced garlic and mustard seeds to play up the fragrant elements. Then – and I can’t really explain my reasoning behind this decision, just a gut instinct and the desire for a contrasting cool fragrant element – I sprinkled in some chopped tarragon at the last moment.
The tarragon tied the whole dish together wonderfully! The spicy mustard seeds pop and crunch under your teeth, the turmeric adds a pleasant musky flavor, and then the tarragon breezes through all pungent and licorice-y. I made it once, and then I made it again the very next day with the last of the peas.
Post hoc, I can make sense of the flavor combination. After all, turmeric is often an ingredient in mustard, as is – surprising no one – mustard seed, and garlic too. I’ve had some very delicious tarragon mustard, which may well be why I guessed that tarragon would make such a nice addition to these flavors. So there you go, sense made! It also raises the point that a tiny squirt of vinegar or lemon juice might be nice with these peas as well, should you be so inclined.
But, truly, it’s possible that the most memorable thing about this dish is its color. It is extremely green. The turmeric in the olive oil turns a startlingly fluorescent chartreuse that very well could have been the inspiration behind ’80s work out fashion. The green oil slicks the green peas and makes them even greener than they already are. It’s pretty awesome, especially if you enjoy the color-driven sensory experience of food as much as the taste. We do eat with our eyes as well as our mouths, after all.
Pass the peas please!
Sugar snap peas with turmeric, mustard, and tarragon (serves 4)
- about 1 lb. sugar snap peas, stems removed, and the little string along the side pulled off
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
- a generous 1/2 tsp. turmeric
- 1 1/2 – 2 tsp. whole mustard seeds
- 2 Tbs. chopped fresh tarragon
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a large sautee pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until it is shimmering. Then, stir in the garlic, turmeric and mustard seeds and sautee for about 1 minutes, until they become quite fragrant.
- Stir in the peas and cook for about 2 minutes, until they become bright green. Stir well all the while to get the peas coated with the spices.
- Scrape the peas and the flavored oil into a serving bowl, then toss with the tarragon and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm. (Do be careful of stains! If you spill turmeric oil on things, it’s hard to get out.)