A look at one of Mr. Jefferson’s favorite vegetables
It’s spring, and all sorts of good things are beginning to pop up at area farmers markets. That includes peas, which, by all accounts, was one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite vegetables. At Monticello, he grew 19 varieties!
Each spring, the president held a competition with area gentlemen farmers to see who could produce the first pea of the season with a dinner to follow featuring the legume.
This dish, Garden Pea Pilaf with Mint-Basil Chimichurri (from my book, Dishing Up Virginia), would have made a great dish for that meal.
Remember, fresh peas taste best, though peas that have been quickly frozen while still fresh are a good substitute.
Garden Pea Pilaf Recipe
with Mint-Basil Chimichurri
Mint-Basil Chimichurri Ingredients
2 cups fresh mint
1 cup fresh basil
1 cup fresh Italian parsley
2 garlic cloves
1⁄3 cup distilled white vinegar
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Garden Pea Pilaf Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
1⁄2 medium white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup long grain white rice
1⁄4 teaspoon dry mustard
1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups chicken broth
3⁄4 cup shelled peas, preferably fresh
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Make the chimichurri. Pulse the mint, basil, parsley and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade attachment. Drizzle in the vinegar then the olive oil with the motor running and continue processing until the herbs are finely chopped.
Add the salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes, and pulse until combined.
Prepare the pilaf. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until melted. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook about 1 minute. Add the rice, mustard, and turmeric, and stir to coat, about 1 minute.
Add the chicken broth, increase the heat to high, and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, and the rice is tender, 18 to 22 minutes.
When the rice is nearly done cooking, place the peas in a steamer basket set over a saucepan of boiling water. Cook the peas until they are bright green and crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
Remove the rice from the heat and let stand, covered, for 3 to 5 minutes.
Fluff the rice with a fork, then stir in the peas and salt. Divide the pilaf among the plates. Sprinkle each serving with pine nuts and drizzle with chimichurri. Serve immediately.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Pick Some Peas
Looking for some fresh peas? Check out these area farmers markets and other green grocers in the region:
Lynchburg Community Market
1219 Main St., Lynchburg • (434) 455-4485
Forest Farmers’ Market
15583 Forest Rd., Forest • (434) 665-5475
By Patrick Evans-Hylton