A sweet-pea saute

July 17, 2010|By LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER / Scripps Howard News Service

Dear Lynne: Is there something special one can do with new garlic -- the type with the skin that's not papery yet and with the long green stalks? I like the idea of it being around for a short time; you feel like you've got to get to it fast. What can I do to cash in? -- Steven from Lancaster

Dear Steven: I am with you about moving fast. The whole summer's like that. So many tastes, so many foods that seem like they'll be gone tomorrow -- or at least not be in such great shape tomorrow -- and you've got to feast right now.

We just had a mess of different kinds of peas with edible pods that were like that. Picked early the day we got them, we took a taste and dove into cooking them right away -- at 3 in the afternoon. It felt as though the vivid taste would just fade away in another 10 minutes and they'd be supermarket peas.


And, yeah, I slow-sauteed them, and just before filling our bowls the idea hit to finish them with a little barely melted sweet butter with a few young basil leaves. Two of the sweetest natural tastes on the planet teamed with the sweet peas -- oh, what good stuff.

But it wasn't me; it was the peas. For the record, here's the recipe:


Have a pound of sugar-snap and other edible-pod peas (freshly picked in the best of all possible worlds) washed and drained.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil with 1 tablespoon of good-tasting unsalted butter over medium high. Add the peas with salt and pepper. Saute 2 to 3 minutes or until just tender. Off the heat, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tightly packed tablespoon of young basil leaves, torn. Eat right away.

OK, I meant to talk about garlic and got carried away, but there's a link here -- your garlic's as fleeting as those peas. Yes, you could weave the stalks together and hang the garlic in an airy, cool, dark place and dry it for later. But now is the only time you could use the whole bulb, skin and all. And maybe even the stalk if it's tender (there are hard-neck and soft-neck garlics; the soft necks or stalks are usable).

With some 600 varieties of garlic, you've got a great roulette wheel of possibilities, from soft and quiet to powerful enough to brawl with the spiciest ingredients.

Here are a few summer garlic ideas. Adjust seasonings to your taste and to your garlic.

o The Purist's Pesto and Pasta -- Use the whole head of garlic, skin and all. Puree a couple of heads with lots of young basil and a little Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or Asiago and good-tasting olive oil. You want to taste the garlic and basil and have the other two as backdrops. Toss that with hot pasta, and some pasta water. With fresh lemon, the pesto becomes a dressing for anything you'd like.

o New Garlic and Almond Gazpacho: Whole heads pureed with lots of salted almonds (Spanish Marcona almonds are ideal, but pricey), some olive oil and good-tasting coarse bread you've soaked in sherry vinegar and water give you Spain's pre-Columbus gazpacho (meaning no tomatoes). Thin it with water as needed and top with diced under-ripe nectarines for a tart, fruity finish. You could warm smoky Spanish paprika in a little of the oil and spoon that over the fruit, too.

o New Garlic Picatta Table Sauce: Cut two heads into small dice. Marinate them in fresh lemon juice 30 minutes or longer. Toss them with capers, a little lemon zest, a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Use as a table sauce for vegetables and fish, dress thickly sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, and top grilled meats. You might add the mix to the pan as you finish sauteing chicken thighs.

o New Garlic and First Sweet Corn: Puree a couple heads of garlic with lime juice, salt, a little olive oil and chile to taste. It should be a thick, creamy sauce. Smear this on plates and top with hot corncobs. Rolling the corn around in the garlic sauce gives it a taste like nothing else you've tried.

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