Fresh peas should not really be available year-round at the grocery store, as they don’t store well. We should all enjoy them in late spring and early summer when we see them at the farmers’ market, or we should grow our own, because they’re sweet, tender, and delicious. If you do see fresh peas at the grocery store, they will definitely be fresher if they are still in the shell. The rest of the year, you shouldn’t think twice about using frozen peas.
If using fresh peas: Fill a large saucepan half full with water and 2 tsp kosher salt and bring to a boil. Drop the peas into the boiling water and cook until just tender (taste one or two), 2 minutes for smaller peas, 3 minutes for larger, older peas. Begin timing immediately; don’t wait for the water to return to a boil. Use a mesh strainer to transfer the peas to a dish towel or a few layers of paper towels to drain. Discard the water the peas were boiled in, but reserve the pot.
If using frozen peas: Put them in a colander and run cold water over them for a few minutes until they’re mostly thawed. Spread them out on a few layers of dish towels to drain
Melt the butter in the reserved saucepan over low heat. Add the scallions and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the heavy cream, half of the mint, the lemon zest, 1/4 tsp of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until it thickens slightly and a wooden spoon leaves a wide path when scraped across the bottom of the pan, about 1 minute. Add the peas and stir until they’re heated through and well coated with the sauce, 1 minute more. Remove the pan from the heat, taste for salt and pepper, and serve immediately, garnished with the remaining mint.
Make Ahead Tips
If you’re entertaining, you can boil the fresh peas or thaw the frozen peas ahead of time. It will take less than 10 minutes to finish them on the stove top when dinnertime comes.
Fresh Peas with Lime and Coconut Milk: To give peas a slightly tropical twist, replace half of the heavy cream with coconut milk (canned, well stirred), replace the lemon zest with lime zest, and replace the mint with cilantro. When adding the cream-coconut mixture to the sautéed scallions, simply bring it to a boil and immediately add the peas. You won’t need to let the cream reduce. This variation is good with lamb, preferably grilled kebabs.
These peas are the perfect Easter side dish; serve with roast leg of lamb and buttered new potatoes. Or for weeknights, serve with seared lamb rib chops and a simple rice pilaf.
Photo: Ben Fink