Monday, June 4, 2012

Sugar Snap Pea and Radish Salad

The English peas, that is the peas one eats after removing them from the pod, that I planted in my backyard garden are getting close to the edible stage. I didn’t have to be all that patient if I wanted some kind of pea, however, because the sugar snap peas, those one eats pod and all, have been fabulous in the farmer’s market. I recently combined them in a salad with another great spring offering: radishes.

This recipe was written for green beans, basil and Parmesan, but the author, Jerry Traunfeld, was kind enough to suggest some variations in herbs and cheese, one of which was feta and dill. I like to start with something like this that looks fabulous (and is usually pretty simple), then swap in what I have, often using various green vegetables interchangeably. For example, asparagus, green beans, snap peas, and even broccoli perform fairly similarly, especially in stir fries, pastas, salads and soups. They don’t taste all that much alike, so sometimes the other flavors in the dish might need an adjustment. The dill was great with the snap peas and radishes, but I have to admit that I used it because 1) I love it, and 2) I didn’t have any basil, but there was some lovely dill available, again, at the farmer’s market.

I can’t seem to grow my own dill from seed, which is totally hilarious to the folks from whom I bought a big, cheap bundle. The stuff pretty much grows willy-nilly from self-sown seeds in just about any garden where it has ever been planted at any time in history. I do not seem to have the magic it takes to make that happen. So I bought some and stirred it into my lovely snap pea and radish salad along with its bosom companion, feta cheese.

I loved this salad and can’t wait to make it again. The snap peas I had were delicately crisp and didn’t need any cooking, but if you have some whose jackets have become a little tough and stringy, a 2 to 3 minute blanching should make them more palatable. The radishes are cut into wedges rather than sliced in this recipe, which I think is a brilliant idea. For one thing, it’s a little easier to cut them that way. For another, you get more radish taste in a forkful of salad and the chunky shape is more compatible with the pea pods. There’s just a light dressing of lemon vinaigrette on the vegetables, so it’s the crisp sweetness of the peas, zesty radishes, briny feta, and lots of dill that make up the big flavor combinations.

Don’t let this recipe as it is written be a restriction. I don’t plan to. Like so many other Messy Apron recipes, it’s more of a guideline and platform for improvisation. Whatever’s green (or yellow in the case of yellow wax beans) and in season could probably work here along with a compatible herb and cheese. I might even try something like this with the peas that are ripening on the vines in the garden. Perhaps mint would be the operative herb. At least I know how to grow that!

Sugar Snap Pea and Radish Salad with Feta and Dill
Based on a recipe in The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor by Jerry Traunfeld

If your snap pea pods are tough or stringy, you can blanch them, then shock them in ice water before using them in this salad.

2 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
8 ounces sugar snap peas, ends and strings removed, cut in half or thirds
4 ounces radishes, cut into wedges
¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill leaves
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese 

1. In a small bowl, combine the onion and the lemon juice. Let stand while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

2. Combine the snap peas and radishes in a medium bowl. Stir in the dill.

3. Add the salt, olive oil, and black pepper to the lemon juice mixture. Whisk well to combine. Pour over the snap pea mixture and toss to coat. Gently stir in the feta cheese.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Other recipes like this one: Three Pea Salad with Walnutsand Parmesan, Wheat Berry Salad with Sugar Snap Peas and Lemon Vinaigrette, Feta and Lemon Vinaigrette (I think this would be good with some fresh dill in place of the dried oregano.)

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