Sometimes eating seasonally means dealing with a glut. While Alice Waters said it quite poetically: "The things most worth wanting are not available everywhere all the time." There's more to it than that. For instance, the past three weeks are the only weeks of the entire year that I can eat local, fresh, organic, sustainable sugar snap peas. Then they will be gone until next season. This fleeting window presents challenges. On one hand, I'm tired of dealing with my 6th pound of peas in 21 days, but on the other hand, I am desperate not to let them go to waste.
Snap peas are brilliant. Here is a pea that can be eaten pod and all! They do require stringing, though. This is not nearly as tedious as shelling, and because the pod is succulent and tasty, there's less waste both in prep time and in product. For the first few weeks, I prepared the snap peas with Asian flavors. I highly making Sesame Orzo Salad from Sarah's Cucina Bella Blog. However, substitute the orzo for a whole grain, as the refined flour in the orzo is not very healthy. I substituted short grain brown rice. The flavors that really pull through in this dish are ginger, sesame, and garlic. I like this recipe because it uses the snap peas raw, which makes them particularly crunchy. Plus, they look really cute when they're thinly sliced crosswise.
The other recipe that I adapted for snap peas is Rice Noodle Salad, which I found on Dorie Greenspan's blog. This salad is Thai inspired so it's got some heady flavors: fish sauce, GARLIC, chili. (I LOVE garlic, but 1 1/2 tablespoons called for in this recipe is overwhelming. Start slow with a 1/2 tablespoon at a time.) You'll also notice that this recipe doesn't even call for snap peas, but they were a lovely addition. Simply string the snap peas, and blanch them in a huge pot of boiling water for about a minute. Then drain and pour cold water over to stop the cooking. Do not over cook!
After these two recipes, I was out of ideas for snap peas, so I turned to the handy dandy Flavor Bible. Which I can't sing the praises of enough. At the end of each ingredient entry, there is a list of "Flavor Affinities" defined as "what herbs, spices, and other seasonings will best bring out the flavor of whatever it is you're cooking." Most ingredient entries have long lists of Flavor Affinities. Snap peas had one: snap peas + brown butter + sage. Sage? WTF?
The Flavor Bible was recommending that I use an earthy, woodsy, Thanksgivingy herb to season the sweet, delicate, springy, and succulent snap peas? It was too strange of a suggestion not to try it. Oh my goodness! I've never had snap peas more delicious. The sweetness of the snap pea seems to intensify as it lingers with the brown butter, perhaps because the brown butter oozes notes of caramel. And the sage is the bass line. It's deeper than either of the other flavors, but rather than overwhelming them, it lets all the other flavors sing.
Brown Buttered Snap Peas with Sage
This recipe would make a great side dish with any chicken dish or even incorporated into a pasta dish.
1 lb. sugar snap peas, strings removed
4 T. butter
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh minced sage
Bring large stock pot full of salted water to a boil. Add snap peas, let cook for about 1 min. Drain and set aside. In stainless steel pan, (not dark nonstick) melt butter over medium heat. Continue to heat until milk solids in butter turn dark brown, but not black. Remove from heat immediately. (This should only take a minute or two. You can also judge doneness by the photo above.) Toss together snap peas, brown butter, and sage. Season to taste with salt. Devour.