While very good frozen peas are available all year long, they usually play the utility role, helping to perk up dishes with bright bursts of sweetness. As confident and well skilled as they may be, rare is when peas get to stand up in the limelight on their own (or, perhaps, on the Green Giant's shoulders?).
But leave it to Tony Mantuano, chef of Chicago's Spiaggia, to give the petite spring vegetable its due. This recipe from Wine Bar Food not only uses fresh peas, but also calls for pea shoots, pea sprouts, and sugar snap peas. All this makes for one bright green, crisp, and fresh salad. To help bulk things out, some croutons are quickly sautéed up, along with some fatty bacon. The salad is then finished off with few shavings of salty Pecorino.
Why I Picked This Recipe: I first came across this recipe during the middle of winter, when making this salad would have been impossible. Instead, I waited until I found fresh peas at the farmers' market to give this one a go. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the fresh vegetable.
What Worked: I love how this salad balances flavors and textures. The peas and snap peas are crunchy and sweet, while bacon is left a little chewy. The shoots are delicate and tender, while the croutons are crisp and oily. This all means that each bite tastes different, as you pick up different elements.
What Didn't: Just about every dish in Wine Bar Food is considered a small plate, so this probably needs another element if you're going to stretch it into a full meal. Honestly, I just ate two servings and was cool with it, but I can see other people wanting a salmon fillet or something like that.
Suggested Tweaks: The recipe also calls for pea sprouts, an ingredient that I couldn't seem to track down. In the recipe write-up, Mantuano notes that you can just use more pea shoots if you can't find the sprouts.
Adapted from Tony Mantuano's Wine Bar Food
- Yield:serves 2 to 4
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 6 strips bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 slices bread, crusts removed, chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
- sea salt
- 1 cup fresh peas
- 1 cup sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
- 1/2 cup pea shoots, cut in half
- 1/2 cup pea sprouts (if available, or use more pea shoots)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 12 thin slices Pecorino Romano cheese
Add bacon to a large skillet set of medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisp but still chewy, about five minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Measure out 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and transfer to a large bowl. Discard the rest of the fat.
Pour 1/3 cup of the olive oil into the large skillet set over medium-high heat. When oil starts to shimmer, add the bread cubes. Cook, stirring very often, until golden brown, four to five minutes. Remove bread crumbs with a slotted spoon and drain on some paper towels.
Bring a medium-sized saucepan of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. While that warms up, set out a medium-sized bowl of ice water. When water in the saucepan comes to a boil, add the peas and the snap peas, and cook for 30 seconds. Drain in a colander when done, and then transfer the peas and snap peas to the ice water. When completely cool, drain them both well.
In the same large bowl as the bacon fat, add the peas, snap peas, pea shoots, pea sprouts (if using), croutons, lemon juice, and remaining two tablespoons of olive oil. Toss well. Divide the salad between two plates and garnish with the cooked bacon and the shavings of Pecorino.