Green peas are quite the underdog, ingredient-wise. They are often overlooked as a potential star for a dish; many of us are most accustomed to consuming them as an ill-prepared afterthought, cooked from frozen in, say, a rice pilaf or a slapdash side dish. But on their own and––most importantly––fresh, they possess a texture and flavor that are precise and unmistakable.
The best way to showcase the intrinsic sweetness of the humble green pea is raw. Here we demonstrate an incredibly easy yet surprisingly dynamic iteration of the pea, partnering it with fresh herbs in a pesto.
It goes without saying that when the word pesto is mentioned, most immediately envisage a muddle of basil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan. This is undoubtedly the most common form of pesto, known as pesto alla Genovese. But the word ‘pesto’ refers more to the manner of preparation than the ingredients within. Pestos are typically made using a mortar and pestle to achieve a rustic, crushed feel, while marrying the ingredients enough to transfer and share flavors, but not becoming a blended sauce, with its component parts discrete.
If you don’t have a mortar and pestle handy, the butt of a wooden spoon against a kitchen-safe glass bowl should do the trick nicely, though it may require a bit more elbow grease. Pesto can also be fashioned in a food processor. However, this tends to negate the rustic feel.
The beauty of using fresh green peas lies in the adaptability of this simple sauce. It can be superbly mixed with freshly cooked pasta, mixed into a salad, smeared on a sandwich, or enjoyed simply on a toasted crostini.
20 green pea pods, shelled, which should yield approximately ½ a cup of shelled peas
5 basil leaves
5 mint leaves
1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
1 clove of garlic
1/8 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic, basil, and mint until a paste forms.
Next, add the green peas, lemon juice, and oil. Crush until fully combined. Taste and season with sea salt accordingly.