Raise your hand if you ate your peas as a child? Go on, raise ’em high and proud. Is there anyone out there? I missed thirty years of happy pea-eating – why didn’t anyone tell me?!

As a child, my mom occasionally ate peas but no one else at the table that I can remember joined her. First of all the peas, like all vegetables I laid eyes on as a kid, came out of our freezer. Mealy, tasteless, watery. I can’t really blame myself for categorically avoiding anything that was presented as a “vegetable” for the first half of my life. I imagine this is what it was like growing up in the 50s.

As you may know, the pea season, like all good seasons, is a fleeting one, and now is the perfect time to luxuriate in the green little orbs. They typically arrive at the farmer’s market in late spring and will be at their peak for the next 2-3 weeks. I couldn’t resist these on Monday when they called to me from the produce aisle at the co-op.

And as luck would have it, the little garden my landlord tends at the front of the apartment is overrun with mint at the moment. Peas and mint are a perfect combination. You could even say they go together like two peas in a…

But it would be unfair to leave out the third element in what becomes an elegant taste trifecta. It’s a cheese that ryhmes with “meta.” Remember that barrel-aged goodness I wrote about a few days ago? You see where I’m going with this? Peas – mint – feta. Served with orecchiette pasta in a creamy sauce of the melted feta, flecked with fresh mint and just-barely-cooked fresh peas. I also had some green garlic in the fridge that I sautéed before throwing in the other ingredients for added depth and flavor.

Late spring is an inspiring time to cook. Just look around, see what the farmers are hawking at the market, and if you’re lucky, see what your landlady has growing near the bottom of your stoop.

Orecchiette with peas, mint, and feta

1/2 lb orecchiette pasta (or any shape that has crevices the sauce and peas can cling to)
1-2 pounds of peas in their pods
4-5 stalks green garlic
1/3 cup feta, crumbled
handful of fresh mint
Parmesan
salt and pepper
olive oil

Bring a pot of water to boil adding a good dose of salt. Meanwhile, you’ve gotta get started on shelling peas! The pea pods open quite easily with a little tug, just drop the peas into a colander or bowl and discard the pods. This might take 15 minutes or so, especially if you do this slowly like me.

Add the pasta to the boiling water with a tbsp of olive oil (to prevent sticking).

Wash the green garlic well and chop the bottom part (discarding the top leafy parts) like you would a scallion. Heat a couple tbsp of olive oil in a skillet on the stove and when warm add the green garlic. Sauté for a few minutes.

As the green garlic is mellowing, crumble the feta and roughly chop the mint. Add the peas to the skillet along with 1/2 c of the pasta water. This will help steam the peas and add a nice base for a sauce. Sauté the peas for a couple of minutes, then add the cooked pasta to the skillet (make sure it’s al dente so it can absorb some of the good sauce flavors) and the crumbled feta. The feta will melt and form a sauce with the pasta cooking liquid.

At the last minute toss in the mint, add freshly ground black pepper, and salt to taste. Grate some Parmesan over the top. You can eat this dish on its own or served with a green salad would be nice.

Serves 2-3 as a main, 4-5 as a side

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