I’ve never had pease porridge since it never sounded appetizing so I shouldn’t really be critical.
However visualizing dried peas cooked to the consistency of baby food – probably a brownish-
green hue – with added bacon fat or butter and salt… mmm, how about another serving of
Gerber 1st Foods. World peace, good. Whirled peas, not so good.
Peas cooked just until done so they retain their vivid green color, nutrients and flavor, very good.
The Orb of Nutrition
The little green sphere known formally as Pisum sativum or green peas to you and me is a
nutrient packed fruit. Yes, botanically speaking, it is a fruit. I haven’t tried any green pea
smoothies lately nor do I intend on trying any but green peas really are fruits.
Anyway, even if the USDA classifies them as starchy vegetables, anyway way you look at them;
green peas are packed with nutrients. They are very good sources of Vitamin K, manganese,
Vitamin C, dietary fiber, thiamine and folic acid. They are also good sources of Vitamin A,
pyridoxine, protein, niacin, riboflavin and magnesium with copper, iron and zinc to boot. The
starch that is contained within also has a lower glycemic index than your usually starchy side
dishes like bread, potatoes and noodles. Therefore, green peas won’t overload your bloodstream
with glucose after a meal.
If the nutritional benefits don’t entice your appetite, how about some culinary suggestions to
get the pea rolling… onto your plate?
In the Natural State
For starters, let me clarify that my method of consuming green peas in their natural state
primarily means pulling them from a bag… in the freezer. Sacre
bleu! I never saw a pea pod that looked like a Bird’s Eye bag!
Fair enough. However, while living in the States, I did purchase
a whole bag of fresh green peas – in the pod – and proceeded to
shell them. After what seemed like an eternity, I blanched the
orbs of goodness in lightly salted water and consumed them
with a pat of butter. Maybe a little lighter in color, maybe a
little sweeter but definitely not worth the time and effort. I’ve
been a frozen bagged pea convert ever since. Plus frozen bagged peas do have the benefit of
multitasking – they serve as great “ice bags” for boo-boo’s or overworked knees.
I first tried a version of this pea salad at Kincaid’s restaurant in Hawaii many years ago and now
make my own adapted version from multiple recipes found on the internet:
Pea Salad with Smoked Almonds
16-ounces frozen petite peas (do not thaw)
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
6 ounces smoked almonds, chopped (infomercial chopper device works great)
8 ounces chopped water chestnuts
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp yellow curry powder
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine the frozen peas, red onion, smoked almonds, and water chestnuts. In a separate small
bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and curry powder. Gently stir the mayonnaise mixture into
peas. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.
You Say Mashed, I Say Mushy
Instead of serving that same side dish of mashed potatoes with every entrée, how about trying a
side of mashed peas or mushy peas as the Brits would say. I first
tried a version of this classic British accompaniment to the
ubiquitous fish and chips from a recipe from the Food Network.
In the States we simply think of fish and chips as deep fried fish
with French fries. However the Brits embellish this classic with
more than malt vinegar. They usually also serve it with some
mushy peas or peas pulverized to the consistency of mashed
potatoes. The version I first tried was that of young Food
Network chef, Jamie Oliver. He added a bit of fresh mint for his Minted Mushy Peas, I tried
“kickin’ it up a notch” by adding lemon zest and lemon infused olive oil. Earthy green peas,
bright fresh mint and spritzed with a touch of lemon. Perfect (if I must say so myself) with
grilled fish, chicken or pork or terrific in a ravioli with beurre blanc and sautéed pea shoots. Here’
s my base recipe for the Gochiso Gourmet’s Mushy Peas:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch green onions, chopped (green and white parts)
1 lb frozen peas
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 bunch fresh mint leaves picked
1 tbsp lemon flavored olive oil (optional)
Heat the oil in a pan and add the chopped onions and peas. Cook for a few minutes to steam
then cool. Puree in a food processor, just pulse it until smooth. Add the mint and pulse again.
Add the lemon zest, lemon flavored olive oil and season very carefully, to taste. If you plan on
saving the leftovers, add about 2gm or four 500mg crushed tablets of Vitamin C to preserve
that vivid green color while pureeing. This is actually a great “trick” that I picked up from
Michael Chiarello’s Food Network show that works with any green-colored food puree.
Forget the Exorcist
I know the boomer generation still has nightmares of Linda Blair and her “pea soup” scene in
that classic horror film but this version is far less threatening. For starters, dried peas don’t
require the same presoaking and cooking times as dried beans. However it still produces great
soups like other dried legumes. Dried peas also require less maintenance (just don’t store them in
direct light as anything green will oxidize to brown) than their frozen brethren.
Despite using dried product, this soup recipe has a fresh taste due to the fresh celery and carrots
along with liberal doses of parsley to brighten the flavor. Forget the Exorcist, try new school pea
5 large stalks celery, chopped (about 3-4 cups, leafy ends ok)
4 medium carrots, chopped (3-4 cups)
1 large onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic. minced
1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
2 quarts water
1 lb dry green peas
1 & ½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried marjoram
1 & ½ cup fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp smoked sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Dried soy protein granules (optional)
In a large stock pot, sauté celery, carrot, onion and garlic in olive oil just until onions are
translucent. Stir in water, peas and seasonings (except parsley) and bring to a boil then reduce
heat to simmer and cook for 1 & 1/2 hours (add soy protein at this time). Add parsley and
simmer for another 10 minutes.
A Small Snack
Finally, as an alternative to fried chips and sweets, how about trying fried green peas as a small
snack in place of the usual snacking assortment? Since these crunchy morsels get that way from
frying, I don’t advocate them as a replacement for fresh fruits and vegetables. However, they are
a slightly healthier replacement for potato chips and candy. Be forewarned that they are mildly
addictive so it’s better to pre-pour your allotted portion before starting so you don’t end up
consuming the whole bag (and several servings in the process).
Therefore, the next time you hear someone reminding you to help the environment by being
“green”, let them know that you’re already doing that by reaching for green. Green peas that is.
Pease Porridge Hot, Pease Porridge… Not!