Before we moved overseas I had a little garden in my backyard. It was mostly herbs and tomatoes but it kept me busy. One year I planted a pack of leaf lettuce. Half of the packet one week, and the other half two weeks later. It was a mix of seeds with some red and green leafy types, including arugula…the kind you’d find in a pack of baby lettuce or spring mix. Anyway, the lettuce produced was fantastic and at first I just picked the leaves to supplement our prepared salads. Eventually my modest plot produced way more than we could comfortably eat. My entire produce drawer was loaded with bags of washed lettuce. Luckily, in addition to eating it, I was able to give some lettuce away. The remainder was turned into one of my all time favorite things to eat in Spring; fresh peas and lettuce.
This is really at it’s best with freshly shelled peas, if you can find them. Frozen peas will work, too, but to me it’s worth the effort to spend the time popping shells and pushing the peas out with your thumb. I like the look of the different sizes and colors.
You cook the peas in broth with some sauteed onion, then add the lettuce at the end of the cooking time. It doesn’t get much simpler than that, but you might want to add some butter or bacon at the start. Sometimes you’ll see this referred to as “petits pois a la française.” I first saw the recipe demonstrated on TV right about the time I was overly blessed with lettuce. A fortunate coincidence. I don’t remember the show, but I’m pretty sure the chef was Laura Calder, who also taught me how to braise radishes in butter and honey.
If you’re going to use fresh, whole peas figure 2 pounds will yield anywhere from 2 – 3 cups. If using frozen peas, just plan on using the entire bag or about a pound. This should be more than enough for 4 generous servings.
The first time I made it, I used frozen peas with the aforementioned lettuce. Ever since I’ve used freshly shelled peas and a bag of Spring mix from the produce section. The combination of the sweet, slightly crunchy peas with the earthy lettuce is just fantastic. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed!
- 2 - 3 cups shelled peas (or one pack frozen)
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth to cover (just enough to cover)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons olive oil or butter for saute
- 2 generous handfuls baby lettuce or spring mix
- salt and pepper to taste
- squeeze of lemon juice to taste
- Saute the onions in the olive oil until they soften and change color.
- Stir in the peas and add enough broth to just cover them.
- Bring to a simmer over medium high heat and cook for 5 minutes or until the peas are cooked as you like them.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
- Stir in the lettuce and allow the heat of the broth to wilt the leaves.