Sugar Snap Peas

My Uncle John was the first professional chef I ever met. The youngest of my mother’s six siblings, John is now a dietician but still gives great advice when I’m stumped in my own kitchen. In fact, for a brief time, he had an apartment above the restaurant and I enjoyed him stopping in almost daily for a chat. I don’t see him nearly so often anymore, but think of him whenever I’m frying fish or preparing sugar snap peas.

One summer, the sugar snaps were fattening up in the garden when John came to visit. I was probably about ten. My father, who is an incredibly enthusiastic gardener, is a Sugar Snap Pea Lover, and babies those things until they produce so many peas, no one knows what to do with them. At the time, my mom was following the Weight Watchers program and her and John were struggling to come up with a plan for turning a pile of peas into a side dish for dinner. John was suggesting a cream sauce, and that obviously wasn’t going to fit the bill. There was a small argument about butter, and John won by assuring her he would only use a small amount. I’m not sure where he got the idea for making peas this way, but once we tasted them that night, we never went back. Yes, raw peas are great, but these are amazing. After a brief stir-fry in butter, these peas are sweeter, greener, and even Pea-ier than straight from the vine. Warm throughout, but practically still raw, they are pure sunshine in a bowl.

Sugar snap peas are available at farmer’s markets in pints or by the pound. Buy a couple pints for this recipe, so you can snack on some while you drive home. You can sometimes find immaculate peas, but don’t let a little white scarring scare you away. As long as the peas seem fresh and crisp, the scars will disappear in cooking. To get them ready for cooking or just popping in your mouth, snap the stem towards the curved side of the pea, then peel the string away with it.

Sugar Snap Peas in Brown Butter (serves 4-6)

1 lb. Sugar Snap Peas, stemmed and stringed
1 T. Butter (but you can use a little less if you like)
a pinch of Salt

Heat a wide frying pan over medium high heat for a couple minutes. Add the butter, and let it melt. After another minute, throw in the peas. They should sizzle immediately. Stir or toss until peas are bright green, glossy, and hot throughout. A little browning adds even more flavour! Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt and serve.