Nothing lasts forever. Not our youth, agility (mental or physical), friendships nor, my favorite yet, all-too-brief sugar snap pea season.
Since the first week in March, we have been celebrating the arrival of spring with sugar snap peas. Locally grown by some of my favorite farmers, this precious spring legume peaks seasonally for about 45 days. My love for this spring treat runs deep and I am already thinking about how sad I will be when the season is over–which will be in a snap.
Because I cook so much and because I am always seeking recipes that are equal parts ease, flavor and nutrition to share with you, it’s rare that recipes get repeated in our house. Sure, we have our favorites and then there are the seasonal go-to dishes, but for a new recipe to be made three times (in as many weeks), well, it must be good.
And when we build that kind of consensus in this house of diverse culinary preferences (he is a meat lover and I lean heavily on a plant-based diet), it means the dish is really, really, really good.
Brimming with Vitamin C, sugar snap peas are also filled with fiber, Vitamin A and moderate amounts of other vitamins and minerals. These bright green pods are typically so sweet, they can be eaten raw, though if you do cook them, do so briefly so they retain their inherent crunch and bright color.
The sugar snap pea recipe that caught my attention was a page I pulled from Bon Appetit’s August 2014 issue, which calls for grilling the peas. I opted for searing them in a hot skillet–your mother’s or grandmother’s (or your) cast iron is great for this. If, however, you are also grilling meat, then try grilling, but no need to go to the trouble when the easy, seared version is so good.
Crisp, light and sweet, the trick to sensational sugar snap peas is to cook them over super high heat for a few minutes so they remain firm and lightly caramelize in spots. Sprinkle with thinly sliced spring green onions or chopped parsley, a generous dousing of course sea salt such as Maldon or Porland, Oregon-based Jacobson and distribute over a bed of homemade aioli and top with another aioli drizzle for an added boost of flavor and contrast. If you are feeling risky, squeeze a half a lemon on top and you are ready to dive into one of spring’s most treasured jewels.
The intense green pea pods paired against the smooth garlic aioli will entice everyone to dig in. But, beware, they may fight over the last few bites.
So snap to it and make this recipe before you have to wait until next year’s crop arrives.
Seared Sugar Snap Peas with Aioli
To make the aioli:
- 1 small shallot finely minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 pastured egg yolk
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt plus more as desired
- 2 teaspoons water
- Pinch of cayenne pepper optional
- 1/2 cup vegetable or grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons sour cream or creme fraiche
- Freshly ground black pepper
To make the sugar snap peas:
- 1 farmers market bag of sugar snap peas or 1 1/2 pounds untrimmed and divided into 2/3 and 1/3
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided (1 tablespoon to cook with and 1 tablespoon at the end when adding the raw peas)
- Optional garnish: sliced green onions chopped parsley, squeeze of lemon
- Flaky sea salt such as Maldon
- Freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, add the shallot and lemon juice and set aside.
In a small bowl or food processor, place egg yolk, garlic, salt, water and, if using, pinch of cayenne and whisk or turn on the machine to mix well.
Whisking constantly or turning on the food processor, slowly drizzle the oil, drop by drop at first, until aioli is thickened and smooth. Gently mix in milk and sour cream or creme fraiche and shallot-lemon juice mixture. Taste and season with freshly ground black pepper and, if needed, a bit more salt.
Take 1/3 of the snap peas, slice diagonally in half and set aside.
Heat cast iron skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and, when hot, lower the heat to medium-high and add in 2/3 of the whole peas. Stir to coat with olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper and let sear for 1-3 minutes, tossing occasionally so the peas char all over.
Once the peas begin to blister in spots, turn off the heat, add in the raw sliced peas, the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and toss well to coat. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if desired.
Liberally spoon aioli on a serving plate, top with snap peas, green onions/parsley/lemon juice, drizzle with more aioli and serve immediately.