Trying to find different ways of incorporating peas into my meals

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

I’m not really a big fan of peas, but I serve them whenever my wife has a craving, which is quite often.
I always try to keep at least two bags of frozen peas in the freezer-one to satisfy my wife’s craving and the other for an impromptu ice pack when the need arises.
Over the years, I’ve tried incorporating peas with other vegetables and sauces, rather than just serving them as plain peas on the plate. When serving grilled salmon or crab cakes, I really do like having some creamed peas to go along with them. Peas and carrots are also a great combination.
One of my favorite soups is split pea soup with onions, carrots and either bacon or ham. I usually make a large pot and freeze what we don’t eat in a couple days. I’ve made Herb Cheese Soup with Meatballs, Potatoes and Peas many times over the years and each time I add just a little bit more peas. I first started adding them just for color, but then realized they actually enhanced the taste of the soup.
If you’re looking for a pasta dish with peas, you can’t go wrong with Pasta Carbonara, an Italian pasta dish made with eggs, Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses, plus either fried pork (bacon) or pancetta. It’s usually made with spaghetti, but can also be made with fettuccine, rigatoni or bucatini.
Another great combination is Peas and Pearl Onions in Tarragon Butter Sauce. The pearl onions are slightly browned in melted butter. I then add some peas, chicken stock and salt and pepper. Once everything is cooked tender, just add some chopped tarragon leaves and serve. You can use water in place of the chicken stock, if you prefer.
Peas and Pearl Onions in Tarragon Butter Sauce
2 Tbsps. butter
16 oz. bag of frozen pearl onions
16 oz. bag of frozen peas
1/4 cup chicken stock (or water)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon leaves

In a large nonstick skillet, heat butter on medium-high until melted. Add onions and cook about 5 minutes or until slightly browned. Add peas, chicken stock, salt and ground black pepper. Cover and cook another 5 minutes longer on medium heat until onions and peas are tender. Add tarragon leaves and spoon into serving bowl. Makes 4 servings.
Herb Cheese Soup             with Meatballs,        Potatoes and Peas
Beef Balls:
1 medium onion
10 ounces chopped lean beef sirloin
1 medium egg
Salt and seasoned pepper

Peel and chop onion. In a bowl, combine onion with beef, egg and seasonings to form a smooth-textured mixture. Season to taste and shape into small oval balls. Note: If you prefer, you can use sausage, prepared as above, or small, prepared frozen meatballs.

1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 cups hot beef broth
1 pkg. (10 ounces) frozen peas
1 can (14.5 ounces) sliced, white potatoes
4 ounces processed herb-flavored cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped chives

Melt butter in soup pot. Stir in flour and cook over low heat to make a roux. Stir in hot beef broth. Bring to a boil. Add peas; simmer for five minutes. Slice or break-up herb cheese into soup in small bits and stir until melted.
Add potatoes and meatballs to the soup; cook for five minutes at a bare simmer. Stir in chives. Makes about 10-12 servings.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Pancetta and Peas
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
6 oz. pancetta, chopped
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
16 oz. spaghetti or linguine
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring often, until well browned and most of the fat has been rendered; remove and set aside.
In a small bowl, beat together eggs and yolks. Add cheeses to egg mixture and continue to beat until well combined.
Cook pasta according to the package directions. When it’s al dente, drain and reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Immediately return hot pasta to the pot and stir in egg-cheese mixture, reserved pancetta and pan drippings, and just enough pasta water to make the mixture creamy. Toss with peas and season well with freshly ground black pepper.
Place pasta mixture on a warm platter and serve immediately, serving extra grated cheese on the side. Makes 6-8 servings.
Seven-Layer Salad
This seven-layer salad is easy to prepare and looks fantastic, especially if you have it in a deep clear glass bowl that allows you to see all the goodies layered inside. Whether you can see the 7 layers or not, it tastes just as good.
2 cups mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 head of lettuce, shredded
1 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup sweet red pepper, diced
4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
10 oz. frozen green peas, uncooked
1 small sweet onion, diced
8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

Combine mayonnaise and sugar. Mix and refrigerate until you finish making the salad. Layer the rest of the ingredients in the following order: a layer of lettuce on the bottom of the bowl; a layer of celery; a layer of sweet pepper; a layer of chopped eggs; a layer of peas; layer of onions and a layer of crumbled bacon.
Spread the mayonnaise/sugar mixture over the top of the salad like cake icing. Sprinkle shredded cheese evenly over the top. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight 8-12 hours before serving. Makes 8 servings.
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Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.