Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mint Pea Puree (Springtime Italian Guac)

We have made this one many times over the last several years and have not been able to resist sharing it with many of you so it seems silly that I haven't posted the recipe yet.  I suppose one reason is that, while there are very few if any things in food, music, art, etc., which are truly original anymore, the general approach here is to post only those things for which I feel some ownership.  Whether it is a bizarre tweak on a classic, something that I can't recall seeing done the same way elsewhere or just a common dish that I really like and find that one particular recipe surpasses or at least typifies all known variations, I suppose it could be said that I just like any recipes I post to be interesting.  If I can recall the particular origin of a recipe, I will give credit where due.  That said, I can't take too much credit for this recipe.  I can however take credit for the high-octane modifications.  Click on the link below to see the recipe where I first encountered this concept.

Mint Pea Puree

2 c. chicken broth or water with 1 Tbsp. chicken base
1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen peas
1/4 c. fresh chopped mint
4-6 cloves garlic
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
4-5 oz. Parmesan cheese

1 baguette or loaf of Italian or French bread 
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

The Method
Add chicken broth, red pepper flakes and peas to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil and remove from heat.  Cut Parmesan cheese into 1-inch cubes and add to food processor.  Process until even coarseness is achieved.  Remove cheese from food processor and set aside.  Drain liquid from peas in a colander and add peas to food processor, along with mint leaves, garlic, salt, pepper and cayenne and process for 15-20 seconds.  Remove food processor bowl from base, cover with foil and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes. 

Cut bread (bias cut) into 1/2 inch slices, brush with olive oil, place on large baking sheet and place baking sheet in oven that has been preheated to 375 degrees until golden brown (7-10 minutes depending on the rack setting and type of bread).  Remove from oven. 

After cooling pea mixture, reattach bowl, add Paremesan and process for an additional 20-30 seconds while drizzling in olive oil and heavy cream.

Spoon finished mixture on crostini and enjoy. 

Food for Thought
Basic departures from the recipe linked above and this one are that this one has more salt, more heat and more garlic (I am from the "No Such Thing as too Much Garlic" school of thought) and no prosciutto, although I think prosciutto is great.  We actually usually top ours with grilled chicken tenders.  I think the basic concept of this dish is brilliant, though it may actually be more English than Italian (Another good food idea from England?  What the?). 

Regarding the salt, you may actually want to add even more salt incrementally as you sample the product.  I find that doing so can really liven up the whole dish and bring the Parmesan to a more taste-forward  position - just enough to balance it with the freshness of the mint and the sweetness of the peas. 

Finally, if you are in a mischievous mood, serve this with tortilla chips as guacamole.  After the first victim reels to find a proper sensory anchor and recovers from the profound gustatory confusion you have inflicted upon him, bag the chips and whip out the crostini.  Your victim may be gun-shy but everyone else will love it.

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