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Simple little peas pack a nutritional punch
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Balsamic Pea Salad incorporates fresh green peas with balsamic vinaigrette, almonds and feta cheese for a uniquely refreshing summer salad. - photo by Tom Reed
Balsamic Pea Salad
You can make this salad lighter by omitting the mayonnaise and adding just enough olive oil to coat the other ingredients. If you choose to keep the mayonnaise, we found you can get better results by using about 1/3 cup. Add a little bit of mayo at a time until peas are lightly coated.
1 16-ounce package of frozen green peas
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
black pepper to taste

Place peas in a colander and run warm water over them until they are thawed. Place in a large bowl.
Toast almonds in a skillet over medium heat. Combine with peas.
Stir in onions, feta cheese and mayonnaise. Mix in balsamic vinegar and season with pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.
Recipe adapted from Balsamic Pea Salad submitted by LLAMAMAMATOO at Allrecipes.com.

Blanched Peas with Cool Champagne Viniagrette
According to Tim Roberts, owner and chef at 2 Dog Restaurant in Gainesville, blanching peas reveals their bright green color and preserves their nutrients. This recipe is Roberts’ favorite way to prepare green peas.
2 cups peas, blanched
1/2 cup Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup salad oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh chopped or minced basil
1 teaspoon fresh minced oregano

Place all ingredients except peas in a bottle, close bottle and shake it.
Coat peas with dressing.
Grab 2 tablespoons of mint, chop roughly and sprinkle mint over peas. Mix gently.
Let sit for about 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Recipe courtesy Tim Roberts, owner and chef at 2 Dog Restaurant in Gainesville.

If you grew up here in Georgia, you might remember the shriveled English peas of your childhood — the ones that were an unnatural, cooked-to-death shade of green. Your mom probably asked you to eat them, but you preferred to roll them around your plate and pile them atop your mashed potatoes.

Let us reintroduce you.

According to Tim Roberts, owner and chef at 2 Dog Restaurant in Gainesville, there are many fresh, unique ways to incorporate English, or green, peas into your menu.

“The healthiest way is raw. Straight-up raw,” Roberts said, adding that the latest food trend in the restaurant business is “raw food” or “living food.”

“If you don’t mind the crunch, and they’re young, fresh peas, you can serve them raw,” he said, adding that he usually blanches peas. “Personally, I would throw the peas in, say, a vinaigrette of some sort. Probably (add) a little bit of mint. I do a Champagne vinaigrette (with) mint, and let them stand on their own in that regard.”

Roberts said blanching, the next best thing to eating peas raw, will keep most nutrients intact.

Blanching involves boiling the peas for about 30 seconds, or, Roberts said, until they turn a “really bright, pretty green,” and then putting them in a bowl of ice water. After a few seconds, you can take the peas out of the ice bath and either freeze them or add them to your recipe.

David White, who owns It Began With a Seed Farm in Lula with his wife, Anita White, said he likes to prepare English peas the simple way.

“Peas and carrots. Everybody likes peas and carrots,” White said Tuesday at the Hall County Farmers Market. “You can steam them.”

White said this year’s crop of peas, one of the many crops the couple grows on their Lula farm, didn’t turn out as expected.

“Peas are bad to take fungus,” he said, which could be one reason why his crop didn’t produce.

If you’re looking to dress up a simple plate of peas, try using them in a special sauce.

“If I wanted to use them, say, in a sauce or something like that, I would almost treat them like you would a piccata sauce, which is basically a little bit of cream, a little white wine, a little butter and capers,” Roberts said. “But what I would do, especially this time of the year, (is) lighten up a little bit on the butter and the cream, add a little more wine, and use the peas (in place of) the capers.”
Roberts said piccata sauce pairs well with chicken.

“You would get a little bit of flavor of the peas, a little bit of creaminess, and a little bit of wine over a piece of grilled chicken or a piece of sauteed chicken, and it tends to liven it up,” he said.

For a new addition to an old Southern favorite, the deviled egg, Roberts said you can add peas to the mix.

“You pull the (yolks) out, make a mash out of the yolks, and then you can use the peas as an idea of a stuffer for the eggs,” he said. “Top it out with a little bit of the deviled egg mix on top to hold everything in place, and that gives you a neat presentation. The deviled egg mix helps hold the peas in place so they don’t fly all over the place.”

For a quick vegetable dip, Roberts said to mix pureed peas, sour cream and seasoning salt.

You can also steam or boil peas, Roberts said, but whatever method you use, just make it quick.

“Especially (with) a fresh pea, it doesn’t take long at all to overcook it,” he said. “Until where it gets that dark, deep green that is, at times, typical of Southern cooking in general.”

We’re near the end of the season’s fresh peas, White said.

According to White, English peas are “usually planted in the month of March. They can be planted as late as April. And they’re usually a 60- or 90-day — depending on the variety that you grow — a 60- to 90-day grow period. So if you plant them in March, you’re going to get them in May (or) June. If you plant them in April, (you’ll get them in) July.”

White said the earlier you plant peas, the better the results — especially in areas like Lula.

“The problem with growing English peas into the heat of the summer, like anything else growing in the heat of the summer, is the heat of the summer,” he said. “And everything suffers more from lack of water and high temperatures. And English peas don’t like high temperatures.”

Whether you have access to fresh peas or frozen ones, Cory Vicens, Culinary Director for Allrecipes.com, said the nutritional value of peas makes them a good addition to summer recipes.

Vicens said there are more than 925 recipes that include peas at Allrecipes.com, a Seattle-based Web site with recipes submitted by home cooks.

“It is really a nutritious vegetable for you,” Vincens said. “And I think that most of us as young children usually kind of scattered (them) over our plate, but have found our way to them as adults as we tasted them fresh.”

They are high in vitamins C and K, folic acid, iron and B vitamins (B1 and B6), she said.

“Vitamin C is for your immune system... Vitamin K (is) really good for bone health. The folic acid is good for your heart, and iron, as we know, is good for your blood as well.”

According to www.nutritiondata.com, a cup of boiled peas has 134 calories, 9 grams of fiber and less than 1 gram of fat.

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