Sunday, June 20, 2010

Curried Peas

My sweet husband grilled steaks for dinner tonight. To truly appreciate this, you have to understand that this weekend, the Nashville area was approximately the temperature of the surface of the sun. Okay, perhaps that was a bit of an exaggeration, but it was absolutely too hot to be outside, much less standing over a fire! Like most men, though, he loves to make fire. He decided he wanted grill onion as well, so he even sliced the onions! Anyway, since he was handling the main course, I made the side dishes. Okay, so one side was a just a prepackaged shortcut...shells and cheddar. But the other side required a little more creativity, and it was a hit! I wanted to make sweet peas because my hubby (who was sweltering at the grill) likes them, but I didn't want to just open a can. I stared at my spices for a while, then a plan began to form.

I started by rinsing and draining the peas (to remove as much added salt and sugar as possible), then pouring a very small amount of water back in. I added some butter like my grandmother taught me, and tossed in some granulated garlic and ground celery seed. Then I thought about the sweet curry in the cabinet...and the cream in the refrigerator. The result was quite tasty! I love it when an easy dish has rich, complex flavors. It reminded me of more Indian-influenced curries, rather than the Thai curries I usually eat. We have been cutting down on our salt, so you might prefer to add a little salt (or use celery salt instead of ground celery seed).

I told my younger brother about this dish, and he reminded me of the time he met a couple from the island of Tobago. The wife began discussing some of her native dishes with him, and one sounded a little like what I made. She used pigeon peas (called toor dal in India) instead of sweet peas, and the process was different. She started by sweating some garlic in oil, then sprinkling some of her custom curry blend over this. Once the fragrance started blooming, she added lightly steamed peas and finished cooking them in this mixture. She said this step really got the flavors into the peas. At the end, she pulled it off the heat and added some cream to slow the cooking, then put it back on low heat to simmer just long enough to distribute the seasonings throughout the sauce.

I think I will probably adopt some of her methods next time. I think I prefer butter to oil with sweet peas, but I like the idea of blooming the garlic and curry. I might try some fresh sweet peas or zipper peas from my grandparents' garden, or perhaps see if the Nashville Farmers' Market has any pigeon peas. Starting from fresh or dried, I might saute the peas like this lady did, but I think canned sweet peas would not hold up well this way. Feel free to experiment with it—I certainly will!

Curried Peas

1 can sweet peas, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. butter
1/8 tsp. granulated garlic
1/4 tsp. Penzeys sweet curry powder*
1/4 tsp. Penzeys ground celery seed* or celery salt
1/4 cup cream

Pour peas into pan with a small amount of water, then add butter, garlic, curry powder, and ground celery seed. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then turn down to a simmer and add cream. Leave on heat long enough to allow seasonings to be distributed throughout the sauce.

* - I LOVE Penzeys! All of their products are fabulous. If you live near one of their stores, do yourself a favor and visit them. Just walk in the door. And inhale. Heavenly! I particularly love their California Seasoned Pepper, Sweet Curry Powder, Mural of Flavor, Ground Celery Seed, and Medium Chili Powder. Everything I have tried is extremely high quality, very fresh, and intensely flavored. Unless you count the coupons they send me on my catalogs, I have received no compensation for this endorsement.

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