Even as spring approaches, sixteen percent of all dinners made in America tonight will be from the frozen food aisle of the supermarket. It’s not completely surprising considering the convenience factor, but why not spring for something with fresh seasonal ingredients instead? Pun (and deliciousness) intended.
Peas are in their absolute prime this time of year. The snow pea is a legume that’s grown in open fields during cool seasons and cultivated in the spring. Unlike garden and field peas, the snow pea is notable for having entirely edible pods that lack the disagreeable fiber other peas contain within their pod walls. For this reason, the green shoots are often cut and served as a vegetable in many cultures. In China you will find them stir-fried with shellfish and fragrant spices. In Italy, we sauté them in garlic, then chill them and dress with the juice and zest of a juicy lemon. This is the way snow peas are prepared in my Chilled Penne Pasta with Asparagus and Peas.
To perfectly complement the freshness of peas, I’ve added other seasonal vegetables: asparagus and ramps. Asparagus, a vegetable prized by many chefs, arrives with the first few days of spring. Since ancient times, asparagus has been one of the best health risk reducers around. With its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients, it’s a truly special vegetable when in season. Ramps on the other hand are a little later to arrive to the race than asparagus. These wild spring onions have a short season, from April to early June. However, a mix of extra garlic, leeks and scallions make a nice substitute.
You can make this recipe during spring when these vegetables thrive, or even freeze the penne to prepare it on a later date. Either way, this chilled penne pasta with asparagus and peas is probably much tastier than that other frozen selection you had in mind!