Although their name suggests that they’re defined by sweetness, sugar snap peas are really about the crunch.
They aren’t any sweeter than regular peas. When you get good regular peas in season, they can be so sugary that it’s impossible not to eat them all right as you shell them, leaving nothing for dinner. (Produce tip: Always volunteer for pea-shelling duty. It’s a lot tastier than string bean trimming or asparagus snapping.)
The joy of sugar snap peas, on the other hand, is their juicy crispness, cut through with a sweetness that’s slightly herbal and a little earthy. Most of the sugar snaps I buy don’t even make it home; I nibble the majority straight from the bag, using the stems as leafy handles.
But every once in a while, I’ll buy enough to make a salad. Sometimes I slice them up and dress them raw, for maximum texture. But, in this more delicate recipe, I blanch them briefly, just long enough so they become tender without losing their bite.
When it comes to blanching sugar snaps, you should not, under any circumstances, breeze over having a bowl of ice water next to the stove. As soon as the peas turn bright green in the pot, immediately use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a freezing bath. Draining them in the sink and running cold water over them — my usual move for blanching vegetables — isn’t fast enough here, and they’re liable to get mushy.
And if you heavily salt the ice water, you can season the peas through and through as they chill.
After cooling, make sure to dry them well with a clean kitchen towel before tossing them with the garlicky, lemony dressing. No one likes a damp pea salad.
Once dressed, the peas make the foundation of this salad. And if you mix in chopped herbs, scallions and other crisp vegetables like sliced fennel or radishes, you could call it a day. But since I was craving something salty and rich next to all those fresh vegetables, I paired them with a tart, creamy yogurt sauce with bits of crumbled feta swirled in.
The peas in the salad were still sweet, but the feta gave them a funky, saline depth, and a welcome silkiness next to all that lovely crunch.
Recipe: Sugar Snap Peas With Yogurt, Feta and Dill
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for water and to taste
- 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed (about 3 cups)
- 1 garlic clove, finely grated or minced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 cup thinly sliced fennel, or use radish or cucumber
- 1/2 packed cup roughly chopped fresh dill, or use a combination of dill and fennel fronds
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (if using Greek, thin it down with milk or water until pourable)
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta (about 2 ounces)
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- Torn soft herbs, such as mint, basil, parsley, tarragon, chives, cilantro or a combination, for serving
- Crusty bread, for serving (optional)
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Have ready a bowl of well-salted ice water and a slotted spoon next to the stove. Drop peas into boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Use the spoon to transfer peas to ice water to cool completely. Drain well and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.
2. When cool enough to handle, put the peas on a cutting board and slice them in half, crosswise.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together garlic and lemon juice. Stir in salt and pepper. Whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the halved peas, fennel, dill and scallions, and toss well. Taste and add more lemon juice, olive oil or salt if needed.
4. In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, 1/4 cup feta, lemon zest, and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice, to taste.
5. Spread the yogurt on a serving platter, and spoon the peas on top. Scatter remaining 1/4 cup feta on top, drizzle with more oil, and top with herbs. Serve as a side dish or scooped onto crusty bread as an appetizer.