Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pea Pesto Pasta (The Triple 'P')

Poor peas.  Canned, thrown into bags of mixed medleys, and sitting as side dishes in frozen dinner entrees.  No wonder some of us didn't take to peas growing up.  They conger images of nagging mothers, reminding us all to eat our vegetables. I have to admit, peas were never a favorite of mine either.  A few things changed all that recently.  First, I tasted peas from a farmers' market.  These are peas as they should be.  Fresh, bright, and green.  I started to see peas in a new light and I urge you to give them a try in this recipe.  They have a very delicate flavor and there is something so nifty about removing them from their little pods.  I fell even harder for peas this past May on a trip up to Maine.  Isn't everything better in Maine?

This mothers' day, my brother and I took our mother to chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier's Arrow's Restaurant in Ogunquit.  I have been to their sister restaurant MC Perkins Cove on special occasions with my husband. We pulled up to a beautiful farmhouse boasting it's own garden on the grounds.  Covering almost an acre of land, the restaurant grows it's own produce to create it's seasonal menu.  Lined with apple orchards, impeccable landscaping, and just-in-bloom tulips, this is spring at it's finest.  Greeted at the door by a man holding a tray of tomato crostini, already I am in love with this place.  We were seated at table by a window overlooking green grass and gardens, which certainly overcompensated for our slightly drizzly day.

The restaurant has received a plethora of well-deserved press and awards since their opening in the late eighties.  You can read more about this on their website.  As each dish arrived, I could see why.  The atmosphere was so relaxing, each course paced perfectly, and the food was elegant and delicious.  I opted for their 'seed and soil' menu.  The first course of this menu consisted of 'first of the season English peas in five preparations.'  It included: a pea terrine with parsley sauce, pea soup with creme fraiche, pea flan with bell pepper vinaigrette, peas in a tuille with yogurt and turmeric, and a pea popsicle.  And this is how I fell in love with peas.  Each of our dishes was unique, and many of the ingredients grown right outside the window I was starring out of.  Talk about 'farm to table' at it's finest. A stroll around the gardens on the way out was the perfect way to end the afternoon.  My mother seemed to think so too.  Something makes me think we will make this a new tradition.

I was reminded of this day and meal when I received peas in this week's CSA share, in addition to mint.  I immediately got to thinking of a dish I could make that would incorporate both.  I make many version of pesto at home, traditional with basil or more adventurous with kale and spinach.  I'll often use walnuts, almonds, and even sunflower seeds.  In this version, I went the more traditional route with pine nuts and used peas for my green factor.  The secret ingredient here is the mint.  If you have not cooked with mint before, you are in for a real treat.  This pesto is light, refreshing, and a nice change of pace from all that red sauce over the winter.  A little lemon to boot and you have fresh summer-style pasta on your hands.  I enjoyed this at my kitchen island on a rainy afternoon, maybe not as picturesque as the gardens, but certainly super tasty and satisfying.

~Pea Pesto Pasta Recipe (The Triple 'P')~

1 cup fresh shelled peas
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more to top the dish
5 sprigs fresh mint
1 large garlic clove
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 lb pasta

Bring a large pot of water up to a boil and cook pasta to al dente.  Bring a small pot of water up to a boil for the peas.  Remove the peas from their pods.  Cook for just a minute.  Drain and add to food processor with pine nuts, cheese, garlic, mint, lemon  juice, and zest.  Pulse to combine.  Stream in the extra virgin olive oil until it is all combined, scraping down the sides if necessary.  Toss pesto with pasta.  Serve with extra grated Pecorino Romano cheese.  Serves 4.

Also, if you are interested, Gaier and Frasier have come out with a second cookbook, Maine Classics.  Looking at the beautiful photos and locations will transport you to the Maine I love.  Having spent my summers there during my childhood, it's both a cookbook and storybook that makes me all nostalgic for smores on the beach and blueberries by the side of the road.  


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Stephanie Skoog said...

Thanks Pam! glad to hear it.