A little catch-up: Two days ago, our kids boarded a bus to sleepaway camp while dozens of parents waved like (I’d like to think adorable but also value self-awareness) lunatics as it pulled away. I learned a few years ago when my son went to camp for the first time that I become unmoored — who am I if nobody demands things and interrupts my thoughts all day?! — without the presence of my adorable but exhausting offspring. Last summer, I ran out of cooking steam while waiting for my daughter to request anything but noodles for dinner. This summer, despite the fact that she’s a baby who was just born (don’t tell me otherwise), my daughter also wanted to go to camp, mostly because she wants to be wherever her brother is and I’m not crying, you are. Fortunately, the photos I refresh, refresh on the camp app all day — in lieu of doing anything more productive or even hedonistic with my time — show them to be having a blast and how could they not be when the first night ended with whipped cream pies in the faces of the counselors on the losing team and nobody challenges their palates beyond pizza, chicken nuggets, and waffles?
This is still a cooking blog, I promise. But if the structure of my cooking life for the last 13.75 years has been shaped to the needs of people who need to be fed multiple times a day, what is left? The reality is that when my kids are away for one night or three, we just go out. We live in New York City; why on earth would we be washing dishes if we could be getting queso fundito and the Caeser-y tomatillo salad at Yellow Rose, as we did Sunday night, or meeting friends at Win Son, as we will later this week, or sweeping sourdough through the garlic-chile butter puddle left behind by the prawns a la plancha while drinking vermouth at Cervo’s, as I’m sure we will weekly?
But last Friday we had dinner at Diner in Williamsburg and my husband and I wolfed down the mixed pea salad and I had a kernel of an idea for what we might eat on the days we do not go out, for the sake of our general constitution or at least livers: make the food they’d never let me, or for which I’d have to endure so much complaining, it threatens to suck the joy out of cooking. And with that, we finally have a new recipe.
About this salad: The markets are overflowing right now with every kind of summer pea — sugar snaps and favas and shelling peas and snow peas in every color and for the small price of sending the pea-skeptics in your life away, you can make a glorious salad with any single one or a mix of them. You can even make a delicious vinaigrette with a shunned ingredient that everyone will run from (unless they try it, which they will not). You can eat it at 8:45pm, because there are no schedules anymore. This salad itself is very flexible; I hope you’ll think of it as a template for a summer salad, no matter what kind of pod vegetables you have on hand. Feel free to use different herbs. Use burrata or a scoop of fresh ricotta or crumbled feta instead of ricotta salata; use avocado instead to keep it dairy-free. Use another nut or seed; add greens if you prefer salads with leaves. But I insist you try the dressing. It’s going to surprise you and I can see it being a staple on roasted vegetables this winter.
Summer Pea Salad with Unexpected Dressing
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, warmed
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh summer peas, such as sugar snaps, snow peas, shelling peas, and/or favas
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon smooth dijon mustard (optional)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup toasted almonds (I’m using marcona), roughly chopped
- 2 to 3 ounces sliced or crumbled ricotta salata cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
[Note: It is completely up to you whether you wish to cook sugar snaps and/or snow peas; both are delicious raw. For this salad, I cook the sugar snaps for 30 seconds to 1 minute but leave the snow peas raw.]
Cook your peas: Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. If using favas or shelling peas, remove them from and discard their pods. Cook favas in the water for 3 minutes; shelling peas for 1 minute, and sugar snaps and/or snow peas for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Scoop each out immediately with a slotted spoon and drop in the ice bath. If you choose to not cook your sugar snaps or snow peas, skip the pot and put them directly in ice water for 10 minutes for the best juicy crunch.
One peas are fully cold, drain and pat dry on a large towel. If you’ve used favas, they have one final step of preparation: You’ll need to make a small slit with a sharp paring knife in the outer light green pod so that the inner dark green enjoyable part of the fava can slip out.
Finish the dressing: Add dijon, if using, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt (about 1/2 teaspoon Diamond kosher), freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes to dressing and whisk to combine, tasting for seasoning and adjusting as needed. If you’d like it less kicky, add remaining tablespoon olive oil.
Assemble and finish: Transfer peas to a bowl and toss with dressing to taste; you may not need it all. Add more seasoning, if needed. Add almonds, cheese, and mint and toss once again. Eat right away.
Do ahead: Vegetables and dressing can be prepared and kept cool, separately, up to a day in advance. Mix only before serving.
6 months ago: Baked Brie with Garlic Butter Mushrooms
1 year ago: Roasted Tomatoes with White Beans
2 year ago: Frozen Strawberry Daiquiris
3 years ago: Collard Greens with Cornmeal Dumplings
4 years ago: Corn Salad with Chile and Lime
5 years ago: Grilled Zucchini Ribbons with Pesto and White Beans
6 years ago: Grilled Pizza and Confetti Party Cake
7 years ago: Peaches and Cream Bunny Cake
8 years ago: Green Beans and Almond Pesto and Very Blueberry Scones
9 years ago: Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings and Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches
10 years ago: Slow-and-Low Dry Rub Oven Chicken and Grilled Bacon Salad with Arugula and Balsamic
11 years ago: Blackberry Gin Fizz and Bacon Corn Hash
12 years ago: Skirt Steak with Bloody Mary Tomato Salad and Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme, and Sea Salt
13 years ago: Bread and Butter Pickles, Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart, Zucchini and Ricotta Galette and Porch Swing
14 years ago: Mediterranean Pepper Salad, Cherry Brown Butter Bars and Watermelon Lemonade
15 years ago: Chopped Vegetables, Watermelon, and Feta Salad
16 years ago: Rosanne Cash’s All-American Potato Salad and Ratatouille’s Ratatouille