I dream of peas. This is not a dream that everyone shares, I realize, but for those of us who like to follow the seasons with our cooking — and especially for those of us whose diet is made up primarily of vegetables — peas are synonymous with June.
This year, though, after a long winter and cold spring, they’re coming around pretty slowly. I’m growing them — or trying, anyway — in my little front-yard garden, but half of the vines seem stunted. And there are so few plants crammed into one side of one of my raised beds that when I made the first pass in a harvest attempt recently, I was rewarded with a mere handful. I zipped open the pods and ate them out of hand — super sweet — before I even made it back into the house. Peas have started showing up in farmer’s markets, where they tend to go quickly — and cost plenty.
For those reasons and more, I know I should probably use them sparingly, but I can’t. So now’s the time I have no qualms about also buying them frozen at the supermarket. Much like canned tomatoes, frozen peas have been preserved at the peak of their flavor.
Soup steps forward
The past year or two, I’ve made a habit of puréeing them with yogurt and a little mint for a cold soup. I like holding out some of the peas and mashing them with a little feta, then spreading them on toast for dunking in the liquid. This year, I’m taking those flavors and applying them to a different starch: pasta. Peas, feta and mint become a pesto of sorts, and I toss it with farfalle, whose bow-tie shape helps the sauce nestle into nooks and crannies. On top, I sprinkle pine nuts, keeping one of the components of pesto in the flavor mix without losing the nut’s crunch.
Although most of the peas go into the sauce, I reserve a cup or so to stir in whole, adding bright punches of color and flavor.
Maybe, if I can restrain myself long enough, at least some of my own peas can go in the dish, too.
Farfalle With Pea and Feta Pesto
4 to 6 servings. Make ahead: The pesto can be refrigerated for up to 5 days; let it come to room temperature before tossing it with the hot pasta.
From Post Food editor Joe Yonan, author of “Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook” (Ten Speed Press, 2013).
1 pound freshly shelled English peas (about 3 1/2 cups; may substitute defrosted frozen peas)
12 ounces dried farfalle (may substitute fusilli or other curly pasta)
2 scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
4-ounce block feta cheese
2 tablespoons packed fresh mint leaves, plus a few more for garnish
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (see note)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the peas; cook/blanch just until bright green and tender but not mushy, no more than a few minutes. Scoop out and drain the peas, leaving the water in the pot (over medium-high heat).
Once the water returns to a boil, add the pasta and cook it according to the package directions.
While the pasta is cooking, reserve 1 cup of the peas; transfer the rest to a food processor along with the scallions, garlic, three-quarters of the feta and the mint leaves. Process to form a smooth pesto.
When the pasta is ready, drain it, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. Add the pesto and toss, gradually adding a little of the cooking water as needed to create a creamy sauce.
Divide among individual bowls. Top each portion with some of the reserved peas and the toasted pine nuts. Crumble some of the remaining ounce of feta over each portion, sprinkle a few mint leaves for garnish, and serve warm.
Note: Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid scorching, until the nuts are golden brown and fragrant. Cool completely before using.
Per serving (based on 6): 360 calories, 15 g protein, 54 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar