While we were "Up North" there were heavy rains at home in the Twin Cities the night before we returned. My beautiful English peas were crushed from the force. We gathered up all the peapods we could find on the vines and those knocked onto the ground. My husband gently lifted the plants and tried to provide additional support, but I think for this year, the peas are history. Last summer I was able to pick peas well through July and had expected to do the same this season; what a disappointment. So last night we had our farewell to peas dinner on our deck overlooking the garden.
Peas with Baked Fresh Ricotta and Bread Crumbs. I had never purchased fresh ricotta before... lovely. Baked ricotta, toasted bread crumbs, and lemony peas. I served this along with grilled salmon.
• Olive oil
• 1 cup high-quality ricotta cheese, such as hand-dipped full-fat ricotta
• 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
• 4 teaspoons butter
• 2 large shallots or 1/2 small onion, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
• 5 small sage leaves, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
• 1 1/2 pounds pod peas, shucked (about 1 cup)
• Grated zest of 1 lemon
• Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
• Chunk of Parmesan cheese, for grating
1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a small baking dish; a round Spanish earthenware dish about 6 inches across is perfect for this amount.
2. If your ricotta is wet and milky, drain it first by putting it in a colander and pressing out the excess liquid. Pack the ricotta into the dish, drizzle a little olive oil over the surface, and bake 20 minutes or until the cheese has begun to set and brown on top. Cover the surface with the bread crumbs and continue to bake until the bread crumbs are browned and crisp, another 10 minutes. (The amount of time it takes for ricotta cheese to bake until set can vary tremendously, so it may well take longer than the times given here, especially if it wasn't drained.)
3. When the cheese is finished baking, heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the shallots and sage and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the peas, 1/2 cup water, and the lemon zest. Simmer until the peas are bright green and tender; the time will vary, but it should be 3 to 5 minutes. Whatever you do, don't let them turn gray. Season with salt and a little freshly ground pepper, not too much.
4. Divide the ricotta between 2 plates. Spoon the peas over the cheese. Grate some Parmesan over all and enjoy while warm.
I bought a flat of fresh picked strawberries while "Up North" and quickly got to work on a strawberry tart with pastry cream when I returned. I took some liberties with the crust by substituting large, coarse, strawberry sugar from Paris for the standard granular sugar in the recipe. Delightful. I believe you need to make at least one tart with pastry cream and local berries each summer. You just have to... so delicious.
• 1 2/3 cups flour
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
•1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus more for pan
• 1 large egg yolk
• 1/4 cup heavy cream
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add butter. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until butter is smaller than pea-size. Whisk egg yolk, cream, and vanilla in a small bowl and add to the flour mixture. Blend just until dough comes together and is smooth.
2. Form dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours and up to 4 days.
3. Lightly butter a 10-inch tart pan. Roll dough out between 2 sheets of lightly floured waxed paper or parchment paper until 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. Roll dough onto rolling pin, then unroll over tart pan. Gently press dough flush against bottom, into bottom corners, and up inside of pan. Using the rolling pin, trim the dough along the top edge of the tart pan. Place pan in refrigerator to chill and preheat the oven to 375˚F.
4. Once the oven is preheated, remove tart pan from refrigerator and line dough with foil. Fill with dried beans, rice, or pie weights.
5. Bake tart shell until edges are light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and beans. Return tart shell to oven and continue to bake until center looks dry and is starting to turn deep golden brown, about 15 minutes more. Remove from oven; let cool completely before removing pan rim and filling shell.
VANILLA PASTRY CREAM:
• 1 cup each whole milk and heavy cream
• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out and reserved
• 4 large egg yolks
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch
• 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1. Heat milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to simmer. Add vanilla bean pod and seeds; let set off the heat, covered, 30 minutes.
2. Mix yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Blend in cornstarch and salt. Rewarm milk mixture over medium high heat until almost simmering. Slowly whisk hot milk mixture into yolk mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Pour mixture back into pan and cook, whisking constantly, until as thickened and mixture coats the sides of a wooden spoon, about 3 to 4 minutes. Pour custard through a strainer into a clean bowl, discarding vanilla bean.
3. Press a sheet of plastic wrap against the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming. Chill for at least 3 hours and up to 4 days.
4. Whisk cold custard to smooth out any lumps, then spread into tart shell.
1. Top the pastry cream with hulled strawberries or any other type of berry or combination of berries. Brush the berries with melted currant jelly. Chill tart until ready to serve.
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