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Recipes and Stories

21 April 2018: Spring Peas and Onions

My Father's Sweet Spring Peas with Spring Onions

While we’re on sweet peas, a favorite way to dress them in my kitchen is with bright, herby spring scallions and butter (and lots of it). It’s not only delicious, the mere aroma of it always brings with it warm memories of my father.

Contrary to the notion that ministers do nothing from Sunday to Sunday but write long, tedious sermons, my father was a very busy man. Aside from three services a week (more, if someone got married or died), Bible study groups, and not one, but three sermons to compose, there were visits to the sick, shut-in, worried, and grief-stricken, counseling sessions for troubled marriages and spirits, and patience to be found for irritating parishioners who were ever eager to find fault with him, his family (that would be my brothers and me), and the church in general. In between all that, he read and studied.

Oh, and he had that family—three growing boys and a wife who worked full time as an educator. In other words, he was running from early morning until supper, and didn’t have much time for cooking. When, on the rare occasion it fell to him to feed us, his repertory was limited, and, like so many other busy fathers of his generation, included frozen TV dinners.

Back then, the green vegetable in most all of those dinners was sweet peas. Frozen peas are tricky and one thing they don’t take well to is baking. Before the trays went into the oven, Dad would fold back the foil, take out the peas, and cook them separately, in a pan with just enough water to keep them from drying out. When they were tender but still bright green, he drained off any water that was left and dressed them with lots of butter, onion salt, and pepper.

The rest of those meals was mercifully forgettable, but the peas were transformed into something that was not merely edible, but delicious. When at last I had a kitchen of my own, I kept making his peas, substituting fresh little scallions for the onion salt. Their fresh greens lend an herby sweetness and delicacy to older fresh peas, and give frozen ones an almost garden-fresh flavor.

Spring Peas and Onions

Serves 4

2 small green onions or scallions
2 pounds (unshelled weight; 1 pound if shelled) small young green peas or 1 pound frozen peas
Salt and whole black pepper in a mill
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits

1. Wash the onions, drain well, and pat dry. Trim away the roots and any discolored leaves and finely mince them.

2. If you are using fresh peas, shell and wash them briefly in a basin of cold water. Transfer them to a colander or sieve, and set them aside to drain.

3. Bring about 1 cup of water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the peas and a healthy pinch of salt and let it come back to a boil. Reduce the heat to a lively simmer, loosely cover, and cook until the peas are just tender, about 15 minutes for fresh, or 4 to 5 minutes for frozen ones.

4. Drain away any liquid but leave the peas in the hot pan and return it to the heat. Add the minced onion, toss well, and turn off the heat. Taste and adjust the salt and, if liked, add a liberal grinding of pepper. Add the butter and shake the pan until it dissolves and coats the peas. Pour into a warm serving bowl. If liked, add another pat of butter and serve at once.

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