Peas and Long Life

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California produce has slain yet another one of my Hate Foods. There were quite a few groups things I refused to eat as a kid and peas were definitely one of them. I hated the mushy, tasteless, mean little things. If I piled enough butter and salt on them, I could just swallow them down with a big slosh of water but my gag reflex still worked overtime.

Last weekend, I was picking through the produce at the Sunset Andronico's and my eyes fell on the big smooth pods of English peas. Without thinking too hard about what I would do, I started stuffing them in a plastic bag.

Once at home, I perched on a sunny stool in the kitchen and took old-fashioned pleasure in slitting the pods open with my thumbnail and rolling the pale fat peas into a bowl. A few seconds dip in rapidly boiling water and slightly longer in a shocking ice bath and my peas were ready. Firm and mouth-popping, the peas were as smooth as a freshly Botoxed baby's bottom with nary a wrinkle to be found. But what to do with them?

I pulled out the butter and salt and stared at them. Ugh, I couldn't go that route. While I love the simplicity of salt and butter when oven-roasting or steaming summer corn, in order to fully expunge my childhood memories, I definitely needed something completely different. Since the peas were already cold, I opted for a salad. Peppery watercress, slightly bitter endive, and flaked ivory shavings of salty Pecorino Romano in a light lemony vinaigrette all brought out the sweetness of the spring pearls.


English Pea Salad

Serves 4

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
4-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 1/2 cups shelled English peas
Three heads of Belgian endive, bruised leaves removed
2 bunches small-leaved watercress, about 1 lb
Pecorino Romano, or an aged sheep's cheese of your choice

1. Whisk the lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil together. Add salt and pepper and taste. Adjust seasonings to your preference. Set vinaigrette aside.

2. Fill a large, heavy-bottomed pot with cold water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the shelled peas and cook for about 45 seconds. Plunge the cooked peas in an ice bath to stop the cooking.

3. Slice the endive at an angle and put the slivers in a large bowl. Add the watercress and drained peas and toss with the vinaigrette until glistening.

4. Serve the salad on individual plates and shave the Pecorino Romano over each portion. Use as much cheese as you like.