Along with the Radish and Chive-Butter Crostini that I mentioned last week, that same trip to the Greenmarket also inspired another menu addition: Spring Pea Crostini with Ricotta and Fresh Garlic. This bright, verdant small bite makes a colorful contrast on a plate when paired with the radish crostini. We were offering these as a small plate item as they are a great match for any beverage to kick off an evening meal.
I know that the television shows highlight the glamor and excitement of working in professional kitchens, but there’s lots of other jobs, too. Coming in on a Sunday to find a pile of smashed glasses on the floor of the kitchen (no one has yet owned up doing to this) and having to clean it up, was just one of my many tasks the in past few weeks. Others include throwing all that expired food out of the walk-in refrigerator. Think it’s not a great job to do at home; try doing it when the volume and “mystery food” factor is multiplied. Having bought fresh peas at the market, I took on another necessary but mundane cook’s task – shelling peas. Someone has to do it.
Then, I worked on the rest of the dish. I didn’t want it to be too pea-forward. (Being related to someone who absolutely, vehemently cannot stand peas, along the lines of the way that I dislike raisins in things, I am sensitive to the pea-adverse community.) The spring garlic is the stage between ramps and the bulbs that we buy year-round. It has a bright garlicky flavor with the greens lending it some of the herbaciousness that ramp tops have. Then I tempered it a bit with the ricotta to make it more spreadable on the crostini. These were another hit with the staff who tried them. Alas, I couldn’t get the non-pea-eaters among them even to take a nibble, although they did admit it was pretty to look at.
Spring Pea Crostini with Ricotta and Fresh Garlic
Prep Time: Less than 30 minutes
Serving Size: Makes about 1 pint of chive butter, enough for 40 or so crostini
1 recipe Crostini (see here)
1 lb. Peas, freshly shelled (will yield 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
1 large pinch Salt
3 stalks Spring Garlic, white and green parts
1/2 Lemon, juice and rind
2 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp. Black Pepper, freshly ground
1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese
Microgreens for garnish (recommended ones are micro watercress or micro basil)
For this recipe the peas need to be cooked briefly, just enough to soften them up a bit but not too much to actually cook them through to the mushy stage. To do this, put a saucepan of water on the heat to boil. When the water comes to a boil, add a large pinch of salt and the peas. Count 30 seconds and then pull the peas off the water, drain them, and dunk them in an ice bath.*
Pour the cooled, cooked peas into a blender or food processor (We use a Vitamix which I also have at home.) along with the spring garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, 2 tsp. of the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Blend until everything is a relatively smooth paste and there are no visible chunks of peas or the garlic.
When you are done, it should look like the photo above. To get the mixture to this consistency, it takes about a minute or so in the Vitamix, perhaps a bit longer in the food processor. Scoop the pea-garlic mixture out of the blender and place it in a bowl.
Add the ricotta and the lemon zest and fold to combine thoroughly with the pea-garlic mixture. Taste. Adjust for seasoning, adding a bit more salt, pepper, olive oil, or lemon juice as it needs.
Slather some of the pea-garlic-ricotta mixture on the crostini (they should be room temperature and not just out of the oven at this stage). Top with a sprinkle of microgreens and serve. The microgreens should be added at the last minute, but the crostini can be made up to 20 minutes in advance.
*Kitchen Witch Tip:
A little trick I’ve learned from blanching cases of vegetables is that it’s much easier if you drain the hot liquid and peas in a sieve or colander and then place that, peas and all, into the ice-water combo. That way, you don’t have to spend time fishing errant peas from the liquid, and you can drain the peas simple by lifting the strainer out of the water.