Green peas in June, shucked fresh from the pod, are such a rare and delicate treasure that I’m swayed to disbelieve they’re the same things I grew up pushing around on my plate. Whereas the latter version were frozen and already shelled, the presence of the pod makes the legume that much more three-dimensional and full of life to me — tedious as they may be to shell. The flavor of sweet, fresh peas is sublime, and they need little else to accompany them, in my opinion. But if pushing around the rotund morsels on a flat plate seems unsophisticated try them atop this creamy carrot puree.
For as much as I’ve gone on about peas, I’ll admit the carrot puree nearly steals the show here. It’s velvety and luscious, comprised only of sauteed carrots and onions, with butter and salt. The cute pairing of “peas and carrots” aside, I was looking for something to accompany the shelling peas I’d bought at the market that wasn’t hammy or minty, two pea-related cliches. I considered going out to buy fresh wasabi to recreate a chilled, wasabi-flavored pea soup that I’d made once for a dinner with friends, but that didn’t seem a very fun thing to do on a nice spring day. So instead I grabbed the most common item in the crisper drawer.
I am an avid carrot-eater; I’m a regular rabbit most of the time. Carrots suit me: they’re cheap but dense with hardy nutrients. They need no preparation to eat. They stay crisp in the refrigerator for a very long time, making it easy to keep them at all times. And most of all, instead of being limited to one, special season, good, local carrots are available virtually year-round. I prefer buying whole carrots and I very rarely peel them, but might pull some stray wispy things from their surfaces. As fun as they might be for kids, I don’t buy baby-cut carrots because they tend not to have as much flavor, and the slimy, skinless surface feels weird.
There are a lot of things you could do with the carrot puree created here; I’m thinking of stuffing some of my leftovers in a tasty ravioli. It tasted so good with dill here that I might have to add this herb to them again. A few sprigs of fresh dill had been part of my first CSA share pick-up for the season. Had they not been thrust upon me, I might not have thought to opt for it instead of mint or shiso, which I’ve been using a lot of from my garden lately. Hope those of you who’ve also joined CSAs are off to a great start of the season, too.
Fresh Peas and Carrot Puree with Dill
(makes 2-3 servings)
about 1 lb fresh shelling peas in the pod, to yield about 1 cup peas
4-5 large carrots, ends trimmed and sliced into 1/4″ discs
2 shallots (or about 1/2 small red onion), chopped
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup water
1 sprig dill
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add the carrots and onions and cook over medium-high to soften 2-3 minutes, stirring. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the water and cover. Let simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer everything in the pan to a food processor or blender (or use a hand blender directly in the pan). Process until smooth and creamy.
Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to boil. Add the peas and cook about 2 minutes. Drain.
To serve, ladle a scoop of the carrot puree onto each plate. Top with the peas and scatter dill fronds on top. Drizzle with the olive oil and serve.
(for 2-3 servings)
1 lb fresh shelling peas: $4.00
4 carrots (at $2.50/bunch): $2.00
1/2 small onion: $0.25
1 sprig fresh dill: $0.30
1 tablespoon butter: $0.25
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil: $0.20
salt and pepper: $0.05
Three brownie points: Deliciously healthy. This dish could be served as a “small plate” or appetizer, but the portions that this recipe would make are meant for a more substantial offering — why not a main course? Peas are big on protein, after all, without as much starchiness as many types of beans. They’ve also got tons of Vitamin K and other vitamins associated with veggies, so a real all-around star. (Maybe that’s why we had to push them around our plate so much as kids.) And the carrots, even though cooked here, are hardy sources of Vitamin A and C. They kind of stand in for a creamy sauce like bechamel or a poached egg in this preparation, I think.
Eight maple leaves: No question about it, this is a simple, go-home-from-the-farmers-market-and-make-it dish. Plus, it’s a great time of the year to be enjoying carrots and other root vegetables, like potatoes. Often they’re newly dug in this region (I’m just digging up my carrots on the roof), and these should last in cold storage for the rest of the year.