Skip to main content
Menu
Search
Menu
Close

We make mistakes so you don’t have to.

Try CooksIllustrated.com Free for 14 Days

Email is required
How we use your email address

Celebrate Spring with Pea Salad

By Annie Petito Published

A trio of sweet peas, each treated differently, turns this salad into a showpiece.

Stir-frying or sautéing fresh snow peas and sugar snap peas or even frozen English peas is fine most of the year. But in spring, when these legumes are actually in season (and the only time fresh English peas are available), cooking them beyond the briefest blanch feels like a shame. This year, I decided to showcase all three peas in a knockout spring salad. Each variety would bring something different to the mix: English peas would add pops of earthy‑sweet flavor, snap peas would contribute lots of crunch, and snow peas would provide a more delicate crispness and mineral‑y notes.

Though I knew I didn’t want to thoroughly cook the peas, a brief dip in boiling water can actually improve their flavor and texture (and also set their bright‑green color). That’s because these legumes start converting their sugars into starch from the moment they’re picked, so they can taste less sweet when eaten raw. A quick dunk in boiling salted water softens the peas’ starchy structure, making the remaining sugar more available to taste. The peas’ skins can also toughen after a few days off the vine, and moist heat can counteract that. Just 60 to 90 seconds followed by shocking in ice water did the trick for sugar snap and English peas (shelled first), but snow peas, which are naturally more tender, lost too much of their crunch, so I left them raw.

Any standout salad needs ingredients in a variety of shapes to make it interesting, so I cut the snap peas into bite‑size chunks, which maintained their crunch (and allowed a peek at the peas inside the pods). I thinly sliced the raw snow peas on the bias to help them tangle with the other components.

To break up the legumes with more flavors and textures, I gathered a few other spring ingredients: Bright-red radishes sliced into half-moons contributed color and crunch, peppery baby arugula provided fluff and bulk, and lots of fresh mint leaves left whole or torn acted as a secondary salad green.

Associate Editor Annie Petito experiments with cutting the snow peas into thin slivers as she develops a new recipe for Spring Pea Salad.
Snap peas were best cut into bite-size pieces and quickly blanched (along with the English peas) before being added to the salad.
To break up the density of the peas, Annie tried adding different greens and fresh herbs before settling on baby argula and mint.

As for the dressing, I wanted something creamy that would cling and add richness without being cloying. I whisked minced garlic that I’d soaked in lemon juice (to mellow its sharp edge) together with tangy Greek yogurt, punchy Dijon mustard, extra‑virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. But when I dressed the salad with this mixture, the creamy coating dulled its appearance. The simple fix: I spread the dressing onto the bottom of a serving dish and then placed the salad—tossed with a little olive oil and lemon juice—on top. Constructed this way, the salad kept its arresting appearance, and I could toss it all together at the table just before serving it.

Three Peas, Three Types of Prep

To bring out the best in each pea (and for an easy-to-eat salad), we treat them in different ways.

 

This showpiece salad is a striking way to capture ephemeral spring peas, if only for a moment: They’ll be gone in a flash.

Recipe Spring Pea Salad

A trio of sweet peas, each treated differently, turns this salad into a showpiece.

Leave a comment and join the conversation!

0 Comments
Read & post comments with a free account
Join the conversation with our community of home cooks, test cooks, and editors.
First Name is Required
Last Name is Required
Email Address is Required
How we use your email?
Password is Required
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.