october 3, 2012
End of summer means that field peas are in season. Sure, you could purchase frozen field peas, but nothing compares to the earthy taste and toothsome bite of those that are freshly shelled. You will pay a little more, but these are not mechanically separated from their shells; a labor intensive act of love has delivered these beauties to the market. Field peas are technically beans, not peas. They are cousins to the Asian Mung bean, traveling to the new world in colonial times with African slaves who recognized their value as drought resistant, nutrient rich, portable foods.
They thrive in the hot, humid climate of the American South and are a nice contrast to the more popular spring peas, also known as English peas, familiar vivid green orbs we have all enjoyed fresh, frozen and canned. They go by lyrical names like “dixie lee”, “butterbean”, “pink eye”, “crowder”, and “white acre”, but the best known of the lot are black eyed peas. Most folks are aware of the southern New Year’s tradition of eating black eyed peas with collard greens, bringing good luck into the year ahead. Field peas are available year round frozen, canned and dried. Lucky you are if you happen upon a farm stand selling these nuggets of delicious high protein and fiber, and luckier still if you can create a dish at home that showcases their unique flavor and texture. They contain just enough stick-to-your-ribs protein to make a lunch salad that will stave off the afternoon’s postprandial doldrums. Their high fiber content contributes to a nice slow rise in blood sugar, thus avoiding the upward spike and downward crash of your typical carbohydrate meal.
This salad will make a great vegan meal on its own and a fabulous side dish welcome at any casual gathering. For the committed carnivore, top with servings of grilled meats or seafood, or consider adding bits of feta or goat cheese for a spark of salty creaminess. Our local market recently carried the varieties dixie lee, butterbean, white acre and pink eye peas. All make a fine salad. I used pink eye peas, which don’t appear pink as you can see from the picture. They are a lovely sage green and sandy brown. Once prepared, the salad will last in your fridge for up to three weeks. Crunchy and colorful additions to the salad are the best keepers. Ingredients that are less hardy include cucumber, fresh tomato, avocado and lettuces – these wilt, discolor or exude more liquid and dilute the intensity of the vinaigrette. Don’t let the word “vinaigrette” intimidate. All can be tossed together with the vegetables, and adjustments can be made according to taste. It takes at least an hour in the fridge for flavor to mellow; your initial taste will be of vinegar, so be patient. This salad is crunchy, tangy and beautiful on the table. My personal chef service The Good Eats Company has similar hearty, filling salads as extra sides all year long.
This is something I will enjoy for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with variations outlined above. If you like a sweeter dressing, consider adding a tablespoon of honey or agave syrup. A tiny pinch of organic stevia powder will also do the trick.
one pound field peas, preferably fresh
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (I like Bragg’s organic)
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
one large sweet pepper, finely chopped ( I like to use one half each of two different colored peppers)
3 T coarse, whole grain mustard (I like Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup snipped fresh basil
1/2-3/4 t smoked hot Spanish paprika (best is Mas Portell Pimenton de la Vera)
1/2 t fine sea salt (my all-time favorite is Baleine, clean and clear tasting)
optional : 1-2 T honey or agave nectar, or pinch of organic stevia powder
- Wash and pick over peas for stones and other debris.
- Cover peas with water in a heavy two quart saucepan, bring to boil, then simmer uncovered over low heat until tender. This can take from 25-45 minutes depending on the variety and condition of the peas. Taste one or smash between fingertips to gauge tenderness. Keep in mind that immersion in vinaigrette will firm up their texture, so best to err on the side of more tender. Do avoid stirring to keep skins intact.
- Drain well and let cool slightly in a shallow mixing bowl, about 20 minutes.
- While still a little warm, toss with all remaining ingredients and chill in fridge at least one hour before deciding on flavor adjustments