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Bert Greene's Kitchen

A Newly Minted Peas Salad in Honor of Morty

August 07, 1986| Greene is a New York-based food columnist

While other grocery shoppers keep their eyes to the ground--wheeling their carts up and down the aisles looking for bargains--I am seeking other signs. I try to find evidence of my fellow shoppers' hopes and dreams by noting what they choose and what they bypass in the wondrous world of canned goods, toiletries and detergents.

I see optimism evidenced again and again in the behavior of overweight shoppers who will spend countless minutes comparing the calories of one frozen dinner entree to another before making a selection. And then, with devil-may-care compulsion they snatch a bag of potato chips for munching at the checkout line.

Similarly, I always detect a shopper seriously weighing the additives and stabilizers inscribed on the label of dog food cans, whereas indifferent pet owners do not even glance at the flavors they choose.

Checking other purchasers' comestibles, I have, at times, thought I detected wedding plans afoot (equal amounts of silver polish and white cake mix in a shopping basket) or the imminent arrival of offspring (kosher pickles and disposable diapers).

Others Sheer Poetry

Not all of my supermarket observations are intuitive. From time to time, I retrieve shopping lists that other customers throw away or crumble into wads at the bottom of their metal shopping carts. Some are curt notations: "Beer, butter, catsup, cookies." But others are sheer poetry. The most recent twist of paper I unfolded was from a female.

"Morty," it read, "buy three lamb chops, two thick-cut for you, one medium-size for me, baking potatoes, sour cream, peas." Then as an afterthought, "Fresh peas--because I know you love them."

In case you haven't noticed, it is fresh pea season. In honor of the unknown Morty, I offer my best recipes.

Try a cold salad devised of peas and mint in a creamy golden dressing. I made it first at the Store in Amagansett years ago.

NEWLY MINTED PEAS

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

1 small onion, minced

1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 pounds peas, shelled and blanched 1 minute

Salt, pepper

Pimiento strips

Combine mayonnaise and sour cream in medium bowl. Add onion, mint and mustard. Stir in peas and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving dish and garnish with pimiento. Serve chilled. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

My favorite way with peas is to eat them on the crunchy side. Toasted walnuts and honey add a decidedly livening bite as well. Serve the peas with barbecued chicken.

SAUTEED PEAS WITH WALNUTS

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 large shallot, minced

1/4 cup chicken stock

2 teaspoons honey

2 pounds peas, shelled and blanched 1 minute

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

Salt, pepper

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallot and cook 3 minutes. Add chicken stock and honey. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in peas. Cook, stirring constantly, until liquid has evaporated and peas are tender, about 3 minutes. Add hot pepper sauce, season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in walnuts. Makes 4 servings.

Peas aligned with snippets of frizzled ham is a great side dish.

MUSTARDY PEAS WITH HAM

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup chopped cooked ham

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup chicken broth

2 pounds peas, shelled and blanched 1 minute

1 teaspoon finely slivered orange peel

Salt, pepper

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook 1 minute. Stir in ham. Increase heat slightly. Cook until ham is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until liquid is syrupy, about 5 minutes.

Stir mustard into ham mixture. Add broth and peas. Cook, stirring constantly, until liquid has evaporated and peas are tender, about 3 minutes. Add orange peel and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.

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