Dietitian's Choice: Spring Pea Salad with Mint
Peas are commonly thought of and prepared as green vegetables. Their bright green color, along with their ability to be prepared much like fresh vegetables, is probably what earns them their vegetable reputation. These little nuggets of sweetness, though, are technically a member of the legume family, which includes lentils, chickpeas, beans, and peanuts.
As peas do have a sweet flavor, it is no surprise that they contain some sugar and starch. Considering their legume heritage, this makes even more sense. Perhaps it is appropriate to think of peas as a starchy vegetable. They possess many characteristics of vegetables, but they are starchy enough that we don’t necessarily want to choose them over other green vegetables regularly. Legumes, though, are a great component of a plant-based diet, and it is widely suggested that adults consume legumes in an amount of 3-4 cups per week.
Sugar snap peas and mint are kind of a match made in garden heaven. They both
emerge around the same time in the spring, and their flavors and textures complement each other in a way that welcomes and celebrates a new season. In the interest of time, frozen peas are used in this recipe, but the light and fresh flavor are not lost. And, of course, you can certainly use fresh peas if you prefer; see Variations below.
Spring Pea Salad with Mint
Time: 15 minutes to prepare, 0 minutes to cook
1 small sweet or yellow onion, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup currants or raisins
Juice from 1 small lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups frozen sugar snap peas
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
Remove peas from the freezer and allow them to sit for a few minutes on the counter or in the sink while other ingredients are prepared.
Slice onion, and chop mint and parsley. If you want to be fancy, you can slice mint in ribbons instead of chopping. To do this, stack mint leaves and roll them from side to side. Then, slice horizontally to achieve ribbons. Set onions, parsley, and mint aside so that you’re ready to add them when the peas are prepared.
Place peas in a colander, and set under hot running water for 1-2 minutes, tossing gently several times. You want peas to be almost thawed, but don’t worry if they are not fully thawed at this point. (They’ve already been flash-cooked prior to freezing, and more cooking can mean more nutrient loss.)
Pat with a towel to dry, and transfer to a large bowl. Add onions, parsley, and mint to peas. Then, in a small bowl, combine fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Whisk vigorously to combine, and pour over ingredients in a large bowl. Stir gently to combine, and sprinkle with optional feta or goat cheese prior to serving.
Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
Currants can usually be found wherever bulk foods are sold. They may also be available in the dried fruit section of the grocery store. If unavailable, they can be omitted or raisins can be used alternatively.
Two cups of green peas can be used in place of half the sugar snap peas. This will change the texture and appearance of the dish, but will not affect flavor. If using green peas, it is much quicker to buy frozen and simply follow the directions above for preparation. Or, you may buy fresh peas in the pod and shell them, but know that this is tedious. One pound of fresh peas in the pod yields about one cup of shelled peas.
Peas contain an array of health-protective phytonutrients, some of which are found almost uniquely in peas. With these plants, nutrients come antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. One cup of peas provides about 30% of daily fiber needs and 15% of daily protein needs. Peas are also a significant source of B vitamins, vitamin C, and trace minerals. Mint contains a variety of vitamins and minerals and is traditionally known to promote digestion. It is antimicrobial and contains phytonutrients known to promote open airways, which may be particularly beneficial to those who suffer from springtime allergies.