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What's for Dinner: Fresh Pea Salad with Mint

This salad, with the substantial addition of crispy bacon in a creamy sauce, is the perfect side dish to accompany dinner; alternatively, toss it with pasta for a light lunch.

Fresh peas are as different from frozen ones as sunshine is from a tanning bed. I watched the vines in my garden for weeks, feeling the fat round orbs through the pods until they were just the right size. Then I picked them all and made this salad to go with our roast chicken dinner.

Sure, prep time is a little longer with fresh peas. But what better activity to accompany a warm summer evening than the mindless snap-pop-rattle of shelling? It pairs well with good conversation (I enlisted our dinner guest to help) and it's absolutely worth it for the huge difference in size, flavor and texture. Fresh peas only need a minute or two in a warm bath to transform into bright green, tender bites of spring sweetness.

This salad is perfect with roasted chicken and boiled new potatoes for a spring dinner; it can also be tossed with cooked pasta (I like penne) for a lunchtime entree. The three green ingredients might just be growing outside your door -- and if not, look for them at the farmer's market.

Fresh Pea Salad with Mint

  • 4 ounces bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced spring onions
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cups freshly-shelled peas
  • 1 cup freshly-picked mint leaves
  1. Saute bacon in a skillet until crispy. Drain on paper towels; leave about a tablespoon of fat in the pan.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a small pot of water; when it's boiling, add peas and watch carefully.  After a minute, taste one; depending on the size and number of your peas, it may be done or may need a minute or two more. When they're done, drain immediately and rinse with cool water to stop them from cooking.
  3. Add olive oil to reserved bacon fat; when hot, add spring onions and cook until just translucent.
  4. Sprinkle flour over hot fat and onions; stir until incorporated.
  5. Slowly pour in cream, then stock, whisking constantly. Cook until mixture bubbles and thickens; remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  6. Toss peas, mint and bacon with warm sauce; serve immediately.

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