Wednesday’s Dose of Sunshine: Sweet Peas!

What’s for dinner tonight, Sweet Pea?

It’s pea season! And I’m excited to be able to share a wonderful, easy recipe with you, courtesy of the divine Union Square Cafe in New York City. My husband and I were there last week to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, which was quite possibly, the best dining decision we have ever made as a married couple. The staff treated us like royalty from the moment we arrived – and the food…THE FOOD! It was unbelievable – in particular a seasonal sugar snap pea salad appetizer that will only be available for a few short weeks.

I admit, I love salads. But this one, I swear, made me go weak in the knees. I raved about it to our waitress to such an extent that she finally brought out a printed recipe for me to take home (to shut me up I think). Well, I pined away for it all week, and finally made for dinner last night. It took a whopping 15 minutes. It was as good as I remembered. For a moment, when I closed my eyes, I was almost back in the lovely restaurant sipping a delicious pinot…

…until my 4 year old son reminded me that the only wine I’d be getting was of the “whine” variety. Oh well! The salad was enough to keep a migraine at bay. Make the most of this delectable early summer treat while it lasts.

Ok – enough gabbing. Let’s get to the good stuff!

Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Pancetta, Pecorino, and Mint

Courtesy of Union Square Cafe – Serves 6
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed at each end
1/4 pound pancetta, cut into 1-inch x 1/8th-inch lardons (the salad I made was just as good without this)
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup Champagne, or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons finely sliced mint
5 tablespoon grated Pecorino Romano cheese (this IS worth it – get the good stuff!)
2-3 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring 3 quarts water to boil in a large pot and add the kosher salt. Have ready a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking of the peas. Cook the peas in the water for just 10 seconds. Drain the peas in a colander and immediately add them to the ice water. Remove the peas from the ice water after about 2 minutes. Drain well in the colander and gently pat dry with a paper towel. Julienne the peas by cutting them on a sharp diagonal. Set the sliced peas aside in the refrigerator.

Place the pancetta and 1 tablespoon of water into a 10-inch saute pan set over low heat. Stir the pancetta gently with a wooden spoon to separate while it heats up. The water will eventually evaporate and the pancetta will begin rendering its fat (approximately 4-5 minutes). Turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring and scraping the pan often until the pancetta is completely rendered crisp (another 4-5 minutes). Drain the pancetta in a colander set over a bowl. Set aside the crisped pancetta at room temperature.

Place the minced onion in a non-reactive bowl large enough to mix the pea salad. pour in the lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil, and stir to combine with the onions.

Place the peas, pancetta, mint, 4 tablespoons of the pecorino, the sea salt and ground black pepper into the bowl with the vinaigrette. Mix the salad, taste, and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of Pecorino over the salad and serve.

The next time you are in NYC, I’d strongly recommend making a reservation! Alternatively, you might want to check out best-selling
by Union Square Cafe’s Danny Meyer and Chef Michael Romano featuring delicious, easy to prepare dishes offered at the restaurant. (dh, if you’re wondering what’s on my birthday wishlist…click that last link)