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