Friday, February 19, 2010

Peas and Pearl Onions

Since the theme of our Valentine’s Day dinner was “Harmonious Pairings”, peas and pearl onions immediately came to mind. It’s a classic pairing and one that I have never made before. Naturally, I turned to Marth Stewart who featured a recipe made with red pearl onions. Perfect for Valentine’s Day! I love Martha’s recipes. They almost always work, as well as tasting delicious. But I’m discovering that there is a glaring weakness in most of them: directions.

Martha assumes a certain amount of knowledge on her readers’ part, knowledge that I don’t have. I have never taken a cooking class other than two brief semesters in junior high school*.  That’s why I have always loved Betty Crocker. Her cookbooks include tutorials with photos.**  Martha does have video tutorials on her website but they are usually illustrating advanced techniques.

I am in need of more basic stuff. Like a paragraph on peas. She calls for frozen petite green peas. There were none in my grocer's frozen food case. There were peas and baby peas. Recalling my high school French, "petite" means small and baby peas are smaller than fully grown peas, so I went with the baby peas.

Or how about telling me that I should have cut off the tops of the onions before cooking them. Because once they were cooked, I discovered that it was next to impossible to cut the tops off of them. They mooshed, they split apart, they went flying across the counter, they did everything except exhibit a nice clean cut like in the photo on Martha’s website.

I made one glaring error that I can’t blame on Martha. I was supposed to have ½ cup of small fresh mint leaves which sounded delicious. But I was very busy that week and didn’t have time to get to the store where I buy fresh mint. I figured I could substitute. Very. Bad. Idea. My idea was to add a touch of mint flavor using extract. I didn’t have any mint or spearmint extract, only the peppermint extract left over from the Peppermint Bark. I think I overdid it because the dish tasted like candy canes rather than a refreshing vegetable dish. A was polite enough not to complain.

*Middle school hadn’t been invented yet. When I was young, schools were divided into elementary (k-6), junior high (grades 7 & 8) and high school (grades 9 – 12).

**The internet hadn’t been invented yet. There were no videos. Only reels of hilarious home movies, a few of which I fervently pray will never turn up on Youtube. At least not until after I am dead and buried.

Verdict: Needs a do-over with real mint

Peas and Pearl Onions

10 ounces red pearl onions
Coarse salt
½ ounce (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons water
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen petite green peas
½ cup small fresh mint leaves

Cut an X in stem end of each onion. Cook in salted boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain, and peel.

Heat butter and water in a pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, and cook for 4 minutes. Stir in peas and ¾ teaspoon salt, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in mint. Serve immediately.

Serves 8 to 10.

Compost: onion skins, mint stems

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