Spring peas, with their vibrant green hue and sweet flavor, are perfect on their own and best when picked fresh off the vine. If you happen to come across fresh peas at your farmers' market, look for peas that are plump, bright green with no visible germ. Peas have a high sugar content, which quickly turns to starch, so they are best when eaten shortly after being harvested. In this recipe, sweet peas are paired with fresh ricotta cheese (a top source of Vitamin D) and a little Parmesan. The delicate flavors are well matched for a light snack or as a starter for a spring brunch.
Recipe makes 24 crostini, about 6 servings
1 1/2 cups spring peas
1 baguette or other crusty bread
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced garlic
14 ounces fresh ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil leaves
1. Fill a medium bowl with ice and cold water, and set it aside.
2. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the peas and cook until water returns to a boil. Drain, and immediately submerge peas in the ice water. When they have cooled, drain them again and set them aside.
3. Preheat an outdoor grill or a grill pan to medium-high.
4. Slice the baguette into 3-inch-long oval slices, 1/4 inch thick. Brush one side of each slice with the olive oil, and season them with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Grill on both sides until toasted. Set aside.
5. On a cutting board, sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt over 1 teaspoon of the minced garlic. Chop the garlic and mash it with the flat side of your knife until the mixture forms a paste. In a small bowl, combine the garlic paste, ricotta, 1 tablespoon of the extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon mint, the shallot and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix well and set aside.
6. In another small bowl, mash the spring peas with the back of a fork until there are no whole peas (it will be a mixture of pea halves and paste). Add 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon mint and the Parmesan and basil. Stir gently.
7. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the ricotta mixture onto each crostini, and spoon about 2 teaspoons of the pea mixture on top of the ricotta mixture. Repeat with the remaining crostini. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the top as desired, and serve.
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