Sweet {peas} & Sweet memories

story by Gina Weathersby
photography ©Gina Weathersby/kiwi street studios

As it frequently happens, I spy a single ingredient at the market and am completely inspired. Fresh english peas ~ still in their pods. I scooped up handful after handful until I thought I had enough for a few dishes of whatever I would come up with, or a recipe I would find. As Gabriella and I sat down to start shelling the peas, a flood of memories came upon me. Just as a certain fragrance can transport you somewhere immediately, so did this simple act. Memories of my yiayia were vivid in my mind. Memories of us, and of her and my mom, sitting at the table in our kitchen or at the table in the garden, opening the pods and letting the contents fall onto her apron right on her lap. No need for a fancy bowl, her apron held them all safely. I, however, was given an ordinary bowl. We shelled, we talked, and we tasted. I also remember photos of her from Greece sitting with her friends doing the same thing, only they were all perched upon little wooden chairs around the stoops of someone’s blue front door in the twisty, cobblestone streets of their little village. I can still see her old but nimble hands and her smiles. I can hear our chatter, the gossip, and her stories. I love those memories. I loved those hands and i loved her thick as coke bottle glasses that made her eyes seem as big as an owls. Neither my yiayia or my mom kept written recipes. These things were passed down naturally by showing, by doing, and by tasting. Even so, I thought it wise to write them down as I didn’t trust my memory (smart decision).  I have a little stained and splattered yellow notebook that holds all my favorite greek recipes from our family. It is my most cherished cookbook. I don’t have to look in it too often, as most of the recipes are etched in my memory (for now), but i feel safe that they are there all the same. My yiayia never made any of the recipes that I prepared below, but she shared with me that the biggest moments and memories are in the smallest of moments and from the simplest of activities…that are done together.

Recipes:

A salad of beans, peas, and pecorino and minted pea puree
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s book ‘Tender’

A salad of beans, peas, and pecorino
*Nigel’s recipe calls for fava beans as well,  I only had peas this day
the amounts below made 2 normal bowl sized salads

fresh shelled peas-i used a handful for each bowl-dropped in lightly salted boiling water for about 4-5 minutes (until tender), drained and set aside
ciabatta or your favorite baguette-four slices (one per salad and one per person to munch on), brushed with olive oil, broiled till brown and crispy, rubbed with garlic-two pieces are topped with pecorino and a drizzle of your salad dressing-two pieces are torn and added to the salad
salad greens-your choice, i used mache
fresh mint leaves-about 5-6 big leaves torn-half mixed into the greens
pecorino cheese-shaved
dressing-use your favorite home made dressing-mine was a mixture of shallots, herbs, olive oil, sherry vinegar, dijon mustard, salt/pepper, a squeeze of honey and leftover bits of orange marmalade-a la ilene ross

Minted pee puree (for the bruschetta)
enough for 6 bruschetta

fresh shelled peas-about 2 cups
5 healthy sprigs of fresh mint plus extra leaves for garnish

olive oil-2-3 tablespoons
salt and pepper to taste
pecorino shavings
ciabatta or your favorite baguette-six slices
dressing-same recipe as above

boil the peas and the mint in lightly salted and peppered water until tender, about 4-5 minutes, drain and set aside
puree in a food processor with the oil until desired smoothness-i left mine a bit on the chunkier side
brushed the bread with olive oil and broil till brown and crispy, rub with garlic
layer bread with minted pea puree, pecorino shavings, a drizzle of dressing and a leaf of fresh mint

Minted pee puree and salmon patties
serves 2

the salmon patties were from whole foods-you can certainly make your own
using the recipes above-layer the minted pea puree, salmon patties, garnish with mache, peas, pecorino, tears of small mint leaves and drizzled with the dressing
for the puree on the salmon cake, add a bit of creme to the puree

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