Sunday, July 12, 2009

Lazy Man Peas

I wouldn't eat the dull green, mushy, overcooked peas that seemed ubiquitous when I was a kid, but if I could pick some "real" peas off those stringy vines in the garden, I'd stay out there and eat them all day. I don't think peas grew so well in my mother's sandy garden, but they did in my grandparents' Eden of Northern Michigan.

I remember being in that garden with Grandpa Vic when he told me about a new kind of pea he had planted. He called them Lazy Man peas. "You don't even have to take them out of the pod. You just eat them pod and all." Of course I didn't tell him that I was pretty happy to eat the pods of regular peas once I had unzipped the package and plucked out the sweet jewels inside. Sure, they were stringy, but I could spit out the fibrous stuff when no one was looking. Just one crunch of the Lazy Man peas, however, and I knew there was a difference. The pod was plump, juicy and flavorful.

Those new Lazy Man peas must have been Sugar Snap peas, which were introduced by a breeder in the 1970s, shortly before my grandpa would have procured them for his vegetable garden (although fleshy-pod peas have been around for 300 years or more. I guess these Sugar Snaps were better, though.)

Now, the CSA to which we belong grows Sugar Snaps, and I can't get enough of them. The season seems to be coming to an end, but I adapted a recipe for pickled Sugar Snap peas I found on one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen, so I can preserve them for a while longer. I've had them in a bowl in the refrigerator for a few days, and they taste pretty good already. The author of Smitten Kitchen suggests that they could be enjoyed within 24 hours of immersion.

I gave my version a little Asian flair by adding rice vinegar and a little fresh ginger. They're a nice combination of pickle-sour with a touch of sweet, and a little heat. I'm thinking they will be good as an accompaniment to the chickpea pancakes I've made from the book Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian.

The peas we get from our CSA are quite tender and rarely have thick strings, but the stem end of the pea should be removed, and the strings on your peas may need to be as well. Once you snap off the stem end of the pod, you can usually sort of unzip the string from one side.

Lazy Man Pickles (Pickled Sugar Snap Peas)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups cold water
1 pound Sugar Snap peas
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 large or 2 small dried chile peppers, broken in half

Note: "Nonreactive" equipment and containers need to be used in this recipe in order to keep the acidic vinegars from tarnishing surfaces or leaching undesirable chemicals.

1. In a nonreactive saucepan, heat the vinegars, salt and sugar until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved. Add the cold water, and set aside to cool.

2. Remove the stem ends and any strings from the Sugar Snap peas. Place the peas, garlic, ginger, and chile in a large bowl or jar. When the liquid mixture is cool, pour it over the pea mixture.

3. Cover and allow to pickle in the refrigerator at least 24 hours. Longer is better.

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