Ah, spring in Albuquerque. Daffodils, irises, wild temperature shifts, sand blowing in your eyes… it’s not all perfect, for sure, but the lengthening days and the tiny seedlings poking their heads up from the garden soil make my heart light.
Very little local produce is available yet, but we do have some beautiful local radishes and turnips. Asparagus is making its way here from climes further south. I’ve discussed my love for that vegetable here recently, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned another beloved spring treat: sugar snap peas.
Incredibly sweet and crisp, sugar snap peas are so easy to eat straight from the bag that it’s hard to save them for dinner instead of just snacking on them like potato chips. But it’s worth it. Raw or lightly cooked, the freshness of sugar snaps elevates a simple meal to something special. Since they’re so lovely all by themselves, the cardinal rule of cooking with them is not to get in their way. In other words, the best preparations are the quickest and simplest.
Sugar snap peas don’t require trimming, though they’re slightly more elegant if you take the time. They have a string along each side that is usually unobtrusive, but can be unpleasant to eat in more mature peas. If yours have tough strings, you can remove them by snapping off the end of each pod and pulling the strings away; or you can cut the pods in half, which makes the strings shorter and less obtrusive. Stringy sugar snap peas may be slightly fibrous and tough, and can benefit from brief cooking (as in the second recipe below) to make them a little more tender.
Sugar snap peas have a real affinity with the slightly spicy sweetness of the season’s radishes and tender white turnips, so it makes sense to put them together. Here are two simple ways to do that.
Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Radishes
Halve 1/2 pound sugar snap peas and place in a medium bowl. Add to the bowl 3 medium radishes, preferably with pretty red or pink skins, halved lengthwise and then thinly sliced into half-moons. Add a quarter-cup of sunflower or radish sprouts, if you have some. Squeeze on about a teaspoon of lemon juice, drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil (use your best – lemon-scented olive oil is lovely here), and sprinkle with salt. Toss gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning until it tastes just right.
Braised Turnips with Sugar Snap Peas
Scrub one bunch small white turnips. Trim off tops and tails. Halve turnips lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch half-moons. In a medium saucepan, bring 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth to a boil. Add turnips; cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until they’re fork-tender. Add 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed if necessary. Cover and cook until the peas are very bright green, about a minute. Add a little salt, if needed, and grind on some fresh black pepper. Serve in small bowls with the tasty broth.
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