Wednesday, June 29, 2011

English peas and Israeli Couscous

When I was young, maybe middle school or even a bit older, I remember thinking dimes were adorable. No, that's not a typo. Dimes. I liked their small roundness, so I saved them. Then, at some point, I realized I could exchange one cute small two-dimensional round thing for an even cuter three-dimensional round thing: superballs from the gumball machine at the local supermarket. So each week when I went to the store with my parents I'd make the exchange and pretty soon much of my dime collection was turned into a superball collection. I wonder what landfill those colorful plastic orbs are sitting in right now, still perfectly in tact?
I still am attracted to small round objects, but now that I'm older and far more sophisticated, the objects of my affection have also matured. Much of the jewelry I tend to like include little circles. I find patterns on clothing or upholstery that include round shapes in them appealing. And, I think peas are just the most charming vegetable - a bunch of tiny prettily colored green pearls hanging out inside of their own comfy pod. I really can't think of anything in the produce arena that beats them. I bought some English peas during my first visit to the Arlington farmers market today. Even though I only bought a small amount, it took me forever to shell them all because I wanted to stop and study each one and take pictures of my favorites.
Please indulge me in a quick, yet somewhat related tangent. It has to be at least 15 years ago now that I attended, for the first time, the Boston Vegetarian Festival. There was a t-shirt on sale there with a bunch of animals standing around Planet Earth with the caption "All that we're asking is to give peas a chance." It was such a clever little play on John Lennon's song as a plea to vegetarianism. I somehow talked myself out of buying it, probably thinking I shouldn't spend the money on it, but I think about it every so often. I've never seen one again and if I do, I'll certainly buy it.
Once I finally finished shelling the peas, I pulled together a quick and fairly tasty dinner with them. I had mushrooms to use up, so I included those. I think next time I would probably put in some sauteed tofu instead of the mushrooms.

English peas with Israeli couscous
1/2 cup or more of shelled fresh peas, blanched for a half a minute in boiling water
1 cup Israeli couscous, cooked in broth or water with vegetable boullion
small handful of chives or fresh parsley or fresh basil
l cup sliced mushrooms
goat cheese to taste
small handful pine nuts, toasted
oil or bit of butter
salt and pepper

1. Cook couscous while shelling the peas. Put on some water to boil in a small pan.
2. Blanch the peas in the boiling water for no more than a half a minute so they don't get mushy.
3. When the peas are done, strain them and put the same pan back on the heat (medium low). Add the mushrooms and chives (or parsely or basil). Sautee and add salt and pepper.
4. Mix together the couscous, peas and mushrooms. Top with pine nuts and goat cheese.