It’s been touch and go with spring for a few weeks now: A sunny day here, a frigid day there, then—snow again? Then, rain—no, it’s just wet snow. But after a few days definitively in the springtime camp and no teetering-on-freezing temperatures to be wary of in the forecast, we’re finally feeling confident enough to put away our heavy boots (maybe not the sweaters just yet…) and settle into spring.
Except… excuse us, pardon us, we’re not settling—we’re jumping, stomping, waggling, bursting, ha-ha-ing into spring.
One of the biggest signs that the coast is clear: our farmers’ market. Spring onions and ramps and artichokes—oh, the artichokes—fiddlehead ferns and rhubarb (we are going to make rhubarb cakes and pies and ice cream toppings until we’re practically made of the stuff) have started peeking out the past few weeks and filling the farmers’ crates. And then, there are the PEAS. We were ecstatic when we spotted the first fresh peas. Others might take this as a sign of of the winter-crazies, but it’s just the usual for our pea-loving selves.
These springtime poppers, bright and fresh and snappy, are ready to be tossed in salads and pastas right from the pod. They just seem to make any dish happier. No need to steam or boil or do whatever you think you have to do before you eat them. You can, of course, do those things (though gently, please, and not until they turn into water-logged Gushers—they might as well be canned at that point). And there are a few more incredible things to be done with them, too (we’ll get to that in a moment), but they’re perfect raw. Try them all on their own or tossed with something equally fresh like radishes, and dressed simply with some lemon juice, salt, and good olive oil. Throw them in pasta with garlic, fennel, lemon, and olive oil, and top it all off with some grated cheese. Done. Finished. Sold.
But then, there’s something else that we like to do with fresh peas. Something that’s so good and crispy and gooey and salty that you’re going to fall mouth-first in love with the recipe.
Fresh. Smashed. Pea Fritters.
We’ve already sold our great big spring-hearts to these little green jewels and we may never get them back again.
When you’ve got something as wonderful and delicate as fresh peas, the last thing you want to do is put them in a dish that squashes their flavor and texture, making them an afterthought. What you want is to make every grassy, springy note of theirs sing. And what we all want is to make and eat fritters. Like…all day every day? For breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Maybe even snacks, too. Who knows! (We know: It’s snacks, too.)
So, here’s the deal. You take fresh peas. You blanch them in boiling water so they’re still glowingly bright green and pop with a nice snap when you put one between your teeth. You smash them up just enough just to maximize their fritter capabilities, and add just a few, super fresh flavors—herbs, scallions, lemon, salt, and pepper—along with some equally fresh, creamy mozzarella balanced by some nice, salty Pecorino. Then you scoop out your fritters and fry it all up. Add a sprinkle of salt and eat and eat and eat the second they’re just cool enough to get from the plate to your mouth without causing serious damage.
Springtime. In your mouth. Green and crisp and cheesy.
Good luck actually getting them to the table—most of ours didn’t even make it off the spatula.
* * * *
Fresh Smashed Pea Fritters
Makes 22 or as many as you have left after you’ve eaten approximately a whole bunch right off of the stove
– 2 cups fresh shelled peas
– 2 scallions thinly sliced
– 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, chopped into roughly pea-sized pieces
– 1/4 cup flour
– 1/4 cup grated Pecorino
– 2 large eggs
– One nice big handful each of fresh parsley and fresh basil (if you really want to measure, it’s about 1/3 cup of whole leaves packed), chopped
– Zest of 1 lemon and juice from 1/2
– 1/2 tsp kosher salt
– 1/2 tsp black pepper
– Enough high-heat vegetable oil (we used safflower) to make about a 1/4-inch deep frying pool in your pan
* Over medium-high heat, add about a 1/4 inch of vegetable oil to your largest frying pan. (This way you’ll minimize the number of batches you have to do since you don’t want to overcrowd the pan.)
* Fry fritters until golden brown on the bottom, then gently flip to cook the other side until that side is golden brown, too.
* Remove golden-green fritters to a paper towel-lined plate to drain off any excess oil. Sprinkle sea/kosher salt over top while they’re hot and serve right away.
© 2015 Lee and Lou Cook. All rights reserved.