This versatile recipe, with its reliance on fresh English peas, announces that spring is in full swing. You can serve it alongside a cheese plate, toss it with pasta, or use it to top a crème fraîche tart. Peas and mint combine well, but the mint can be overpowering if not used judiciously, as I have below. It’s also important to use spearmint, not peppermint, which has an overwhelming minty quality.
- 1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½ cups shelled English peas
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1½ teaspoons minced garlic
- 0.76 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 2 teaspoons chopped mint
- 1½ teaspoons lemon zest
- In a small saucepan, carefully warm the oil over medium heat until it is warm to the touch but not hot (about 150°F). Add the peas and salt, turn down the heat to the lowest setting, and cook until the peas are beginning to turn bright green and taste just barely cooked, 3 to 4 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the peas or they’ll be mushy, and make sure the heat is very low or you may accidentally fry them. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the peas to a plate or tray. Reserve the cooking oil.
- In a small sauté pan, warm 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and chile flakes and carefully sweat them until the garlic is very lightly cooked, about 1 minute. Taste the garlic. It should have a mild and sweet (as opposed to raw) flavor.
- Add the cooked peas, the garlic-chile mixture with its oil, the mint, the lemon zest, and ¼ cup of the reserved pea cooking oil to a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times, until the mixture is roughly chopped. It should have a nice, oily sheen and resemble a rough pesto; it shouldn’t be a uniform purée. Stir in a few more tablespoons of the pea cooking oil if necessary to achieve the correct consistency. Taste for salt. Don’t be tempted to add acid of any kind to this relish or the peas will change color from beautiful green to drab. Serve immediately.