CHEF DEL COOK COOKING SUGAR SNAP PEAS
REPRINTED FROM APPLEWASABI HEALTHY COOKING MAGAZINE
Springtime introduces a wonderful array of green vegetables with delicate flavors and crunchy textures. Sugar snaps are a relatively newcomer to the pea family that is a cross between the garden pea and mangetout. The edible pods look swollen and plump. Thee pods of sugar snaps do actually snap when the pods are broken and the taste of is even sweeter than garden peas. So how did all of these great attributes come to be in a singular vegetable? Not entirely by accident as it turns out.
HOW TO CHOOSE SNAP PEAS
Three rules for buying sugar snap peas:
- Buy them fresh (from a farmers market)
- Keep them cold (store in the refrigerator)
- Eat them soon
The sugar, in snap peas will convert to starch the same way it does in corn so keeping them cold is the best way to slow this process down. Surprisingly, half of their sugar content will convert to starch within six hours of picking if kept at room temperature. Look for pods that are firm, have glossy pods with a slightly velvety feel, filled to appear almost bursting, and peas should not rattle loosely in the pod. Pods should not be dull, yellowed, or heavily speckled.
Snap peas have a unique appearance with rounded pods that can reach a length of 3 to 5 cm at maturity. Pod walls are rather thin in comparison with snow peas although mature pods may require the removal of a thread-like string running the length of the pod on both the top and bottom. This is similar to the string in the pods of early bean varieties that gave them the name “string beans.”
HOW TO STORE SNAP PEAS
Peas are best when harvested just before you prepare them, as mentioned above, the sugars in the peas begin rapidly turning to starches once they are picked. It is the strongest incentive to grow your own as they will probably be the best snap peas you can get. Refrigeration will slow the process a little, but they are best eaten within a couple of hours after picking. Farmers will tell you to pick them early in the morning for the sweetest peas. When picking peas, hold onto the pea vine with one hand, and gently pull the pod off with the other. Sugar snaps are at their best when they are crunchy, tender and plump.
Fresh pods are eaten as a whole. Fresh pods are sweeter and nutritious, so, use them as soon as their harvest/purchase. If you can’t make it to your local farm and instead shop at the markets try to choose fresh, tender bright-green pods which give an audible “snap” when broken. Buy full, round, uniform sized pods featuring smooth skin. Avoid over-matured pods as they tend to be out of flavor. White spots on the green pod indicate starch which is a strong signal that the peas are not fresh. Similarly, avoid peas with surface cuts, cracks, mold or discoloration. At home store them in a plastic container inside the vegetable compartment of a refrigerator set at high relative humidity so that they remain tender and crispy. Be sure to consume them as soon as you can and no longer than 3 days after picking.
HOW TO PREPARE SNAP PEAS
Green peas do not require the long cooking times dried legumes such as split peas do. In fact they require very little time at all – just be careful not to overcook them. Part of the pleasure of eating sugar snap peas is the crunch. Cooking sugar snap peas takes no more than two or three minutes to fully preserve the textural snap and fresh flavor.
COOKING SUGAR SNAP PEAS
Sugar snaps are best eaten together with its pod. Raw peas are delicious and sweet, but the peas are even sweeter and juicier when cooked properly. Note that overcooking the pods will cause them to fall apart. If you want to cut the pods into a smaller, bite size portion do it after cooking them so that the peas stay intact inside the pods.
The pods may have a string that needs to be removed before cooking. To prepare, wash the pods in cold water, and pat dry. Trim the stem end and remove the stringy fiber on top and bottom of the pods by pulling the end of the string from one end to the other.
BASIC The basic preparation for snap ends that have been cleaned is to soak 5 minutes in ice water, then boil in salted water for 1 – 3 minutes , then return to to ice water to stop it’s cooking. This has the benefit of removing tenderizing, enhancing its sweetness and setting a bright and beautiful greencolor.
BOILED Thin 1 minute / Medium 2-3 minutes / Thick 3 minutes
STEAMED 1-3 minutes longer than boiling method as per size
RECIPES FOR SUGAR SNAP PEAS
The two most important attributes for deciding how to pair sugar snap peas with other ingredient is their sweetness and crunchy texture. Sugar snap peas are all about fresh flavor and texture so they naturally pair well with other fresh ingredients.
- FLAVORS: citrus (lemon or sudachi), mint and anise (herbs such as tarragon & fennel)
- OCEAN: shrimp, lobster, langoustine, scampi
- POULTRY: roasted or braised breast of guinea fowl, pheasant & capon
- MEAT: slow braised pork shoulder, crisp bacon
- STARCH: pasta, risotto, steamed rice
- COOL: whipped mascarpone, lemon zest & green peas
- HOT: soup with mint