A trio of sweet peas turns this springtime salad into a showpiece
Stir-frying or sauteing fresh snow peas, sugar snap peas or frozen English peas is fine most of the year. But in spring, when these legumes are actually in season (and the only time fresh English peas are available), cooking them beyond the briefest blanch feels like a shame. Enter this knockout spring salad.
In this recipe, each of those three types of peas brings something different to the mix: English peas add pops of earthy‑sweet flavor, snap peas contribute lots of crunch, and snow peas provide a more delicate crispness and mineral‑y notes.
The whole idea of this salad is to highlight the peas’ freshness, so we didn’t want to thoroughly cook them. But a brief dip in boiling water can actually improve their flavor and texture (and also set their bright‑green color). That’s because these legumes start converting their sugars into starch from the moment they’re picked, so they can taste less sweet when eaten raw. A quick dunk in boiling salted water softens the peas’ starchy structure, making the remaining sugar more available to taste.
The peas’ skins can also toughen after a few days off the vine, and moist heat can counteract that. Just 60 to 90 seconds followed by shocking in ice water did the trick for sugar snap and English peas (shelled first), but snow peas, which are naturally more tender, lost too much of their crunch, so we left them raw.
To break up the legumes with more flavors and textures, we gathered a few other spring ingredients: Bright-red radishes sliced into half-moons contributed color and crunch, peppery baby arugula provided fluff and bulk, and lots of fresh mint leaves left whole or torn acted as a secondary salad green.
As for the dressing, we wanted something creamy that would cling and add richness without being cloying. We whisked minced garlic that we soaked in lemon juice (to mellow its sharp edge) together with tangy Greek yogurt, punchy Dijon mustard, extra‑virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Instead of dressing the salad with the mixture, we spread the dressing onto the bottom of a serving dish and then placed the salad — tossed with a little olive oil and lemon juice — on top. Constructed this way, the salad kept its arresting appearance, and we could toss it all together at the table just before serving it.
This showpiece salad is a striking way to capture ephemeral spring peas, if only for a moment: They’ll be gone in a flash.
Spring Pea Salad
Serves 4 to 6
1 garlic clove, peeled