Peas and Carrots

I didn’t get to the farmer’s market last week, so first thing this past Saturday, I loaded Nolan into the stroller and took off for the market, determined to get there before noon for the best choice of produce. I ended up buying all of my veggies from Pitchfork and Crow, reserving barely enough cash for some boysenberries, apricots and pink gooseberries at other stalls. As you can see, I got quite a good haul: fava beans, shell peas, golden beets with beautiful tender greens, multi-colored carrots, gorgeous basil, and a few round zucchinis. (Incidentally, I was in line behind some ladies buying a mountain of basil for Wild Pear; it warms the cockles of my heart to see restaurants supporting local, organic agriculture first-hand!)

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to process all of my produce on Saturday due to a bad headache; I chopped the greens off the carrots and beets, and wrapped up the basil in a damp paper towel, but didn’t get to shelling the peas until Sunday afternoon, by which point they were already on the starchy side. That didn’t stop Nolan from standing by to sample peas as I shelled them, and it makes me want to try my hand at planting peas next spring; my own earliest food memory is picking peapods from our garden and running up onto the porch to eat them straight out of the shells, evading an imaginary “pea monster” that protected the patch. In any case, I decided to whip these peas into a puree for ricotta gnocchi, seasoning them with fresh basil and garlic along the way. I served the tender dumplings with sauteed chicken breasts and a lemony pan sauce.

I also knew I wanted to make something with carrots, since Jeremy had just brought home a huge bag of organic baby carrots from Costco before I went to the market and succumbed to the siren-song of multi-colored heirloom carrots. I made some of the heirloom carrots into a salad with beets and kidney beans to go with one of our pizzas, and we’ve been snacking on raw baby carrots like they’re going out of style; our munchkin likes them nearly as much as cheese cubes and bread, which is really saying something. And anyway, what goes together better than peas and carrots?

Since I pretty thoroughly transformed the peas, I thought the carrots deserved no less interesting a treatment. I decided to shred them and fry them up like I frequently do with onions, and sometimes potatoes, tossed first with seasoned salt and then with flour. Aside from the fact that the food processor sabotaged my shredding efforts—a tiny chip broke off from the top edge of the work bowl, preventing the lid from locking on, which keeps the motor from engaging—this was an easy, and very unusual garnish. The crunchy strands of carrot provided just the right textural and visual counterpoint to the soft, green gnocchi. All in all, a fun twist on some of our summer produce.

This post is linked up with Two for Tuesdays.

Shell Pea Gnocchi with Shoestring Carrots

1 1/4 C shelled peas (fresh or frozen)
1/4 C basil leaves
1/2 C chicken stock, preferably homemade
2/3 C ricotta cheese, preferably homemade
1/3 C pecorino romano, grated
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 C all purpose flour

3 T bacon or chicken fat, or olive oil
1/4 C sweet onion, diced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 C lemon juice
1 C chicken stock, preferably homemade

Shoestring Carrots, for garnish (recipe below)
Fresh basil, cut into ribbons, for garnish

Cook the shell peas in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, until tender and bright green. Add the basil in the last 5 seconds, then drain. Puree in a food processor or blender with the chicken broth until smooth, scraping down the sides partway through. Taste; if your peas were less than perfectly fresh, you may want to add a tablespoon or so of sugar to boost the flavor.

In a large bowl, combine the pea puree with the ricotta cheese, pecorino, garlic, and salt until uniformly blended; taste and adjust seasonings, then stir in the egg. Next, add the flour and stir in gently with a spatula; do not overmix.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Using two teaspoons or a small disher, scoop rounds of the gnocchi dough into the boiling water, about 10 or 12 at a time. When they float to the surface, after about 4 minutes, they should be cooked; scoop them out with a spider or slotted spoon into a holding bowl, and start dropping in the next batch. Repeat until all the gnocchi are cooked.

While the gnocchi cook, heat the bacon or chicken fat, or olive oil, in a large skillet or saute pan. (I served my gnocchi with sauteed boneless, skin-on chicken breasts, so I just used that same skillet and the rendered drippings from the chicken skin.) Saute the onions and garlic over medium heat until translucent, then deglaze the pan with the lemon juice. When it has nearly all reduced, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil; reduce by half, then dump the cooked gnocchi into the pan and toss to coat. Serve alongside sauteed chicken breasts, with a sprinkle of fresh basil and some shoestring carrots for a crunchy counterpoint.

Shoestring Carrots

1-2 carrots, shredded
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 C all-purpose flour
Oil for frying

Toss the shredded carrots with the seasoned salt and allow to sit for 5 minutes to draw out some moisture. Add the flour and toss well to coat, pulling shreds apart if necessary to avoid big clumps. Heat an inch of oil to 375F in a small, heavy pot and add a handful of carrot. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown, stirring frequently. Use a spider to remove from the oil, and drain on paper towels, sprinkling with a bit more salt while still hot. Repeat until all the carrots have been cooked.

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8 thoughts on “Peas and Carrots

  1. July 20, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Two great ways to serve “boring” veggies. They now take the stage as stars! I especially love how you made the carrots – reminds me a little of Burmese cooking. Thanks for linking to Two for Tuesday Blog Hop!

  2. July 20, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Oh, everything is so pretty!! And I love your final dish…sounds delicious =) Thanks so much for sharing wtih Two for Tuesdays this week.

  3. July 20, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    I love Gnocchi but have never had a pea version like this – it sounds delicious! And what a great and easy way to use carrots. Thanks for sharing this with us at Two for Tuesday this week! I’m really glad you did! I will definitely be trying these two recipes! 🙂

  4. Kim
    July 20, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    That pea gnocchi is wonderful!! I love it:)

  5. July 22, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    LOL what a lovely blog! I saw peas and carrots and thought of Forrest Gump, but your recipe is a whole lot more delicious looking than the frozen junk he was talking about! I grabbed your RSS feed and want to thank you for sharing the real food love on the two for tuesday recipe blog hop! 🙂 alex@amoderatelife

  6. July 22, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Christy, you’ve piqued my interest with the comment about the Burmese carrots!

    girlichef, thanks! I always feel like my food is not very pleasing aesthetically… I should probably figure out how to really use our camera, lol!

    Bethany, I’ve used fava beans to make gnocchi in the past, but peas are a great option to have, especially since you can get such quality ones frozen. And the carrots were a nice change of pace.

    Kim, thanks for stopping by!

    Alex, it’s fun to put a twist on boring old standards, isn’t it? Especially when farmer’s market produce is involved! 🙂

  7. July 23, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Peas are a very easy plant to grow, and as long as you give them some support, they grow well in containers, too! I don’t want to live a life without fresh garden peas, the snap, the crunch, the sweetness! See what you did? Now my stomach is growling! Thank you for linking up with Two for Tuesdays.

  8. July 24, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Thanks for the encouragement, Butterpoweredbike! I’m thinking I’ll plant some peas against my back porch next spring. 🙂

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