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I have friends who neurotically wait for winter to end, repeatedly hitting reload on their iPhone weather app hoping the week’s temperature turns in their favor. They can’t wait to hit the beach, dust off their skirts, and have patio brunches. I can get down with spring, too, but for completely different reasons. I walk through the market every day praying to be released from winter squash hell. After months of nothing but turnips, beets, and butternut squash, I beg for freedom in the form of plump fava beans, sharp garlic scapes, and sugar snap peas.
Sugar snap peas don’t need any additional descriptors; everything you need to know about them is already in the name. A hybrid of snow peas and shell peas, they have the crisp, edible pods of a snow pea coupled with the bright sweetness of a shell pea. They take to any cooking method; they're good grilled, broiled, or steamed, or even when served raw. For this preparation, I give them a quick blanch to maximize their sweetness while keeping them bright and snappy. I toss the blanched snap peas in a garlicky, herbed yogurt and pair them with bitter radicchio popped under the broiler for a warm, robust element of contrast.
I start by preparing my vegetables while the broiler preheats and water comes to a boil. For the radicchio, I cut the head into eight wedges, leaving the core intact so the leaves hold together. I toss the wedges in olive, salt, and pepper before arranging them on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. If you can’t find radicchio, any hearty, bitter vegetable such as endive or broccoli rabe can work in its place. All bitter vegetables benefit from a trip under the broiler, where their sugars will caramelize to offset some of their bitterness while adding complexity. Broiled radicchio also becomes much more interesting texturally, growing tender at the stem while the leaves get charred and crisp.
I next trim the sugar snap peas and pull away the tough string that runs along their backs. I find it’s easiest to do this with a paring or tourné knife in one hand, while the pod is in another. After making an incision through the tip, I pull off the severed top and the string will usually follow along with it. I blanch the sugar snap peas one handful at a time in heavily salted boiling water. The faster they cook the better; that’s why it’s better to blanch them in small batches, so the water temperature doesn’t drop too dramatically. They only take a moment to turn bright green and then it’s time to lift them out for a shock in an ice bath to quickly stop the cooking. When blanching small vegetables like peas or cherry tomatoes, I always set a colander into the ice bath to avoid wading through ice cubes to fish them out.
For the dressing I fry thinly sliced garlic in olive oil, making crunchy garlic chips for garnish as well as an aromatic garlic oil for the dressing. I cook the garlic in cold oil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once the garlic just starts to change in color from white to barely golden, I immediately remove it from the heat and strain. Garlic can quickly become bitter even if it doesn’t look burned, so it’s important to stop cooking before it is golden brown. The garlic chips will finish cooking and become crisp with the residual heat.
I combine the garlic oil with Greek yogurt, chopped black olives, minced fresh dill, and a touch of olive brine before tossing the mixture with the sugar snap peas. This creamy and tangy dressing fully coats the pods, adding richness to their fresh crunch. I like to tuck the warm, charred radicchio wedges among the sugar snap peas and top it all off with the garlic chips and more fresh dill.
This salad is creamy and light, chilled and warm, bitter and sweet—perfect for those not-yet-summer nights.
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