Pea, radish and feta salad
By Jessica – July 1st, 2008
Fresh peas are one of the many vegetables I’ve come to know and love since moving to England. Each year as spring drifts into summer, I keep a lookout for those first fresh pods appearing in the shops, with their sweet little gems nestled inside.
There are a million and one uses for the fresh pea. You can’t go wrong by boiling freshly shelled peas briefly and swishing them around in lots of butter, salt and pepper to accompany lamb or fish, and they’re also the perfect addition to rice dishes like risotto or paella. But fresh peas can really shine when they’re served cold as well. In this easy pea salad, the sweet pop of the peas contrasts perfectly with spicy radishes, salty feta and tangy lemon juice—and the colors of the salad are brilliant to boot.
Exact amounts aren’t critical here. I came up with this salad last year when I saw a few random peas, a few random radishes and little hunk of feta sitting around in my fridge and thought, “Hmm...” Aim for more peas than radishes and more radishes than cheese and you’ll be fine. As a guideline, I’ve read that about a pound (450g) of unshelled peas will give you roughly a cup of shelled peas. With that in mind, you’ll need:
- shelled peas
- chopped radishes
- some chopped herbs (mint, parsley, basil - optional, but highly recommended)
- crumbled feta or goat cheese
- lemon juice
- extra-virgin olive oil
- finely chopped garlic (optional)
- salt and pepper
Cook the shelled peas in boiling water for just a minute or so until they’re tender. Then drain them and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking process, cool them down and preserve their color. Place them in a mixing bowl with the chopped radishes and sprinkle over a handful or two of chopped herbs and some crumbled feta.
To dress the salad, you can make a lemony vinaigrette by mashing a small bit of garlic into a paste with a pinch of sea salt and whisking in a tablespoon or so of lemon juice and 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil—or you can just squeeze some lemon juice over the peas, douse them with a few glugs of olive oil, and maybe toss in a bit of finely chopped garlic and some flakes of sea salt. Add a few grinds of fresh black pepper and stir gently to coat the peas in the glossy dressing. And you’re done!
A few words to the wise, however: Though shelling peas is a time-consuming endeavor, I wouldn’t recommend making this salad with anything other than freshly shelled peas. Frozen peas are good in their own right, but they don’t have the firm pop of fresh ones when they’re cooked.
And while this would make a lovely dish at a picnic, don’t dress the peas with the lemon juice too many hours before you intend to serve them, as the acidity of the lemon will “cook” the peas. I once stored this salad in the fridge for several hours before a BBQ, and when I opened the container to serve the salad to my friends, I realized—much to my chagrin—that my sweet, vibrant Kerry green peas had turned a rather unappetizing shade of olive drab. So for best results, add the lemon later rather than sooner!