created at: 2014-03-20Happy first day of spring! My roommate, Catherine, and I were recently in an unusually nostalgic mood, recounting our favorite springtime memories. Mine were mostly about freshly cut softball fields and family walks around the neighborhood reservoir, but her most vivid memory was food-related. She said she remembered picking fresh pea pods from her father’s garden and then sitting on the deck shucking them. (It was rural Maine. Her family was green before it was cool.)

Peas are certainly a sign of spring—but they’re a fleeting sign. The season for fresh peas lasts only through late spring and early summer. So for all the peas Catherine and her family ate, they froze just as many. That way, they could have fresh peas within their reach anytime throughout the year.

Frozen peas get a bad rap because they get thought of as on par with other frozen vegetables, very few of which are adequate substitutions for fresh. But unlike other frozen veggies, frozen peas are actually even tastier than fresh. That’s because peas start to lose their fresh flavor hours after being picked, so while those you find in the supermarket have already started losing their flavor, frozen are transferred to the freezer hours after being picked. So not only are frozen peas more convenient, they taste just as good as fresh.

And as you can see from this photo, their color can be just as vibrant as peas picked right from the garden. Prepare this recipe as a kickoff to spring—then break it out anytime during the year.

Minted Pea Puree

Makes about 1½ cups

This puree is a great accompaniment for salmon or chicken (if you don’t keep kosher).

8 ounces frozen peas, thawed
1 clove garlic
¼ cup mint leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
⅓ cup olive oil
¼ cup asiago cheese
Salt and pepper

In a food processor, process peas, garlic, mint and lemon juice. With processor running, drizzle in olive oil until smooth. Transfer to bowl and stir in cheese. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.