Poêlée pois gourmands-petits pois-asperges

Snow peas, fresh peas, asparagus and chives star in this bright green medley of spring vegetables bathed in a French-Asian fusion sauce. With the sun making timid appearances and the chestnuts finally in blossom, it’s beginning to feel like spring in Paris. I’d been planning to make this dish for a long time, and at last it was the right season. So I headed to the market, where spring veggies were out in abundance — except for snow peas…

Poêlée pois gourmands-petits pois-asperges / Spring veggie medley with snow peas

… And therein hangs a tale. But first, the recipe. The veggies are cooked until just tender and then immersed in a sauce of olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, with chives snipped on at the end. The dish may be served either warm as a side or at room temperature as a salad. For example, I served this medley the other night alongside lamb chops cooked by my daughter (who had the brilliant idea of coating the meat with cumin and Chinese bean sauce). The flavors complemented each other beautifully.

The dish was all the more special because I rarely use snow peas, for a simple reason. They’re available in supermarkets, imported from Kenya or Guatemala, but they are rarely seen at farmers markets. I asked the man at my veggie stand about this. He was presiding behind tables laden with every spring vegetable you could imagine — artichokes, asparagus, peas in the pod, beautiful bunches of young turnips and carrots, fresh garlic, etc., but no snow peas. Why? ‘They’ve become too expensive for our clients,’ he said.

A few stalls down, I spotted some snow peas at a stand selling organic vegetables. They were homegrown. Good. But the price! At 14 euros a kilo, or about $7.50 a pound, that was too much for me. So I headed to the supermarket, hoping that a farmer in Guatemala would benefit somehow from my purchase.

Snow peas — known in French both as pois gourmands (‘delectable peas’) and as mange-tout (‘you can eat all of it’) — have been problematic for me before. I got into trouble a couple decades ago when I bet a friend that snow peas were actually just young peas. ‘Mais non’, she replied, ‘it’s a separate vegetable.’ We looked it up. I lost.

More recently, during lockdown, I began doing a lot of Chinese home cooking (mainly Sichuan) as restaurants were closed and we were feeling deprived. Snow peas sometimes featured in these meals, the recipes for which I often found on China Sichuan Food, one of my favorite cooking sites. But snow peas are still a relative rarity at our table. So I was all the more pleased when the snow pea medley turned out well.

If you prefer, you can make a Franco-French version of this dish simply by omitting the sauce and instead sautéing the veggies briefly in butter or olive oil once they are tender. Whichever method you choose, I have a belated message for you. Happy spring!

And happy cooking.

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