Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Petrina's Peas: Tiny Peas with Romano & Eggs

Growing up with a Sicilian mother who had been raised in a largely German /Amish area, the Italian food she cooked was generally the more mundane Italian American things that was beginning to be absorbed into the American food vocabulary during the 50's and 60's. Lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs,  pepper and egg sandwiches, and pizzelles at Christmas. Spinach and escarole were always cooked in olive oil with garlic, and canned green beans were turned into a salad with tomatoes, thin sliced red onion and chopped tomato.

While we did eat some canned vegetables, notably beets and green beans for salads, mostly what Mom served was fresh, or frozen. And often cooked to death. She thought a pressure cooker was a perfectly acceptable way to cook a block of frozen broccoli. One thing, thankfully, was that my father didn't like any canned peas but those tiny sweet Le Sueur® peas. The few times she did serve canned mature peas, I used to hide them under my chair cushion until the meal was over, and then sneak them down the toilet when the coast was clear. I still remember the mealy texture of those big, old peas that I just couldn't swallow. But oh, those Le Sueur peas were a whole different matter. Those were so sweet and tender, I would eat them straight out of the can when Mom wasn't watching. I hadn't a clue that Mom's delicious tiny peas were her own unique take on how to cook a canned vegetable. These peas end up surrounded with tiny creamy curds of eggs and cheese. Spiked with a bit of black pepper.

When I mentioned to Chuck about how my mother fixed them, he looked at me blankly. His mother was Italian, and I was wrongly assuming that this was a common Italian American dish. While it may be rooted in the culture, generally, the peas are the garnish and not the other way around.

It's probably been 25 years since I've bought canned Le Sueur® peas from Green Giant, but the can looks a lot the same. When I opened it up, I couldn't resist spooning some peas up to taste. I'll tell you, it's a darn good thing I needed the peas to make this recipe or I'd have eaten the whole can, spoonful by sweet spoonful. Those Le Sueur® peas are still the most delicious canned peas on the planet.

Since she never wrote down this recipe,  I had to go by memory. Luckily I probably watched her make this 100 times. Mom used her palm as a measuring device, but I had to measure everything for you (and posterity) in cups and the end result tastes just as I remember it. Good thing, huh? She also mixed the eggs and cheese in the empty pea can. So did I. Why wash a bowl?
Simple ingredients but BIG flavor!
One thing I changed was that Mom would have added onion powder to the water instead of using slivered scallions.  Petrina Katarina Josephina Messina Crescenta, who I called Mom, and everyone else knew as Kitty or Kate, nearly always used garlic or onion powder, where I tend to use the fresh stuff. I know this could be totally reworked with fresh baby spring peas, fresh chives, and maybe even a bit of creamy goats' cheese,and I probably will try sometime, but for the moment, what Mom made was perfect. Absolutely perfect.
Petrina's Tiny Peas with Romano & Egg
Petrina's Tiny Peas with Romano & Egg
Serves 3 - 4


1  15 oz. can Le Sueur® very young small early peas, undrained
1T white part of a scallion (green onion), sliced paper thin
1 large egg
1/3 cup finely grated pecorino Romano cheese (Locatelli brand if you can)
Fresh ground black pepper (copious amount)


1. Empty the can of peas with their liquid into a medium saucepan, add the sliced scallion and bring to a simmer. 

2. In the empty can beat the egg with a fork until completely blended, add the cheese and 6-8 grinds of pepper and beat well with a fork.

3. Bring the peas to a boil, let boil; for about a minute and then scrape the egg mixture into the pan, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring constantly. After it cooks about a minute, the egg-cheese mixture will begin to form tiny curds. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand fore 2-3 minutes. sever with a slotted soon, leaving behind any liquid remaining in the bottom of the pan.

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