A big hit: Mushy Peas

Has this ever happened to you?  We went to dinner last night at the home of some people we hardly know and  I made a huge pig of myself.  They are the nicest family, inviting ALL of us five to their house for dinner. They made homemade pizza!  With unfiltered olive oil that their sister-in-law’s family presses from olives from their own groves outside of Naples! It had all the qualities I love in olive oil – green and spicy with a peppery finish.  And that’s not all.  There were caramelized onions.  I don’t know what it is about caramelized onions. Every single time I get near them it’s as if they are the last ones on earth and if I don’t eat enough, that’s it – I’ll never have them again.  Fortunately caramelized onions take 45 minutes to prepare properly so it will be awhile before I have any more.  When I make some, I’ll let you know.

So, today, having eaten 8 slices of pizza (that might be a conservative estimate) with fresh mozzarella and caramelized onions, 3 enormous helpings of salad, lemon berry cake and and espresso last night, I am going to eat with some restraint today. It might be dull; there will be no caramelized onions, that’s for sure. We will have cod cooked in some any-old way, we will have roasted cauliflower and sweet potatoes and I am hoping I can come up with some sort of salad.  The kids will probably hate it and may not eat anything.  But some days are just like that.  There you have it.  I am going to figure out what to do with the cod now.

I know what I’m going to do…

Tuesday Night Cod and Peas

  • Roast Cod
  • Mushy Peas
  • Roast Cauliflower, Sweet Potatoes and Red Onions

I forgot about this menu!  It’s from Nigella Lawson before she went over the top.  I loved her book How to Eat, even with all the made-up adverbs which, in subsequent books, quickly spun out of control into some kind of crazed Nigella-ese. I haven’t made cod this way in several years.  Don’t be put off by Mushy Peas. They’re bright green, suave and garlic-y. We might have been living in San Francisco the last time I made Mushy Peas.  The kids hated them.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens today.

Game Plan

  • preheat oven to 450 F
  • start pot of water to boil, add garlic cloves
  • prepare vegetables for roasting
  • remove garlic cloves, add salt
  • make peas
  • turn vegetables in oven
  • make cod

Roast Vegetables

  • 2 small red onions
  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. In preheated oven, place rack in center position.  Put a large rimmed baking sheet on the rack to heat up while you cut vegetables.
  2. Trim root end of onions but leave intact to hold layers together.  Cut each onion into 8 wedges.
  3. Cut sweet potato into 1″ chunks.  Cut cauliflower into 1″-1 1/2″ florets.
  4. Toss all with 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Place on hot baking sheet in a single layer (don’t make the mistake of crowding – they’ll just go soft and get no caramelization) and roast 30-35 minutes, turning vegetables once half way through the baking time.

Mushy Peas

  • 1  head of garlic
  • 1  lb bag of frozen Peas
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp crème fraîche (you can substitute whipping cream or sour cream)
  1. Put a saucepan of water on the stove, add the garlic and start the heat.
  2. When the water reaches a boil, cook garlic for 10 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon.
  3. Add peas.  When water boils again, cook for 5 more minutes.  Drain.
  4. Put peas, butter and crème fraîche into food processor and puree.

Roast Cod

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil (no need for artisanal, peppery stuff here)
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 lbs true cod filets, cut from the thicker end of the fish
  • Salt and pepper
  • lemon wedges for serving
  1. Put a heavy duty sauté pan on medium high heat.  While you wait for it to heat up, put flour in a wide dish and add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Dredge filets in flour, shaking off excess.
  3. Add olive oil to sauté pan and sear filets on each side.
  4. Transfer pan to already heated oven for 5-7 minutes to finish.

So, there was a small flaw in my plan…I found only one sweet potato and about a quarter of a cauliflower, a half of a red onion plus another quarter of one. Whoops!  But I was resourceful and lucky – because in the vegetable drawer, I rescued a beautiful head of fennel and 5 nice carrots!  I just cut them up and added them to the mix.  A big hit!

And the mushy peas were very popular with 2 of the three kids.  The little guy ate three huge portions.  And the oldest cheerfully ate hers.  Most grown-ups will love these mushy peas.

The cod, I have to say, was as any-old way as I thought it might be.  Maybe I should have dried it off before dredging, perhaps the heat was a little low on the stove. A squirt of lemon was a big help. Also, I didn’t specify to the fish guy that I wanted the thicker ends of the filet.  Next time I might try rice flour or panko for dredging instead.  The cod really wanted to be firm, golden and moist and what it was, was bland and wet.

One way to simplify this menu would be to roast or steam some fingerling potatoes instead of all those roast vegetables.  If you were to steam the potatoes, toss them with butter at the end and salt and pepper.  That actually would be the perfect thing here, perhaps better than the roasted vegetables.  Which is not to say that they weren’t completely delicious. They were. There is nothing like the smell of roasting onions and fennel to make a house smell good. If you try nothing else, give the mushy peas a chance.  The color is intense and delightful, the garlic mellow: prepare to be surprised.

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