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Summer Pea Salads: Improvising a Refreshingly Different Side Dish

peasSometimes it’s fun not to follow a recipe too closely – or at all. This is a great season for playing fast and loose with fresh produce, since our farmer’s markets – and out supermarkets – are chock full of choices. It’s a plentiful season for both snap peas – the ones you eat whole, pod and all – and shell peas, the ones you have to, well, shell. Here’s an idea for a pea salad that’s deliciously fresh and delicious, requires virtually no cooking, and can be thrown together with lots of variations. And while it’s printed here sort of like an actual recipe, you might want to take that with a grain of salt; pick up some appropriate ingredients and follow your heart and your taste buds. It’s hard to go wrong.

Start with about a cup and a half of sugar snaps of shell peas. If you’re using sugar snaps, just snap off the little piece of stem at one end (if any) and put them through a food processor using the slicing blade, or slice them into little matchsticks by hand.  If you’re using shell peas, remove them from their pods and pop one in your mouth. If it seems a little starchy or tough, plunge the rest of them into boiling water for a minute or two to cook them a little, then cool them in ice water.

Put the peas (or cut up sugar snaps) in a bowl and add a handful of cut up basil or mint, or both – or any other herb you think might go well. I like tarragon for this, too.  If you like, you can cook a couple of slices of bacon, crumble it up and add that to the bowl too. Or chop up a slice of prosciutto; any good, salty preserved meat should work fine if you like that kind of taste in a salad, though personally I draw the line at pepperoni.

Toss the salad with your favorite salad dressing – I use one made with 2 teaspoons of good balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a little salt and pepper.

Divide up the salad onto salad plates and grate a generous amount of feta cheese, or good pecorino, if you prefer, over the top. You could even use parmesan.

This makes a lovely side salad for grilled fish or meat, and a good luncheon salad next to an omelet or a slice of quiche, or a piece of leftover roast chicken. It’s fun to do, and refreshing to eat – and the season for doing it won’t last long. Enjoy!

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