For all their delicacy and sweetness, peas in the pod are just not the kind of thing you make a habit of cooking on a weeknight – not with the shelling that needs to happen before they would yield enough for dinner.
Frozen peas are convenient and can be tasty, but you lose the ephemeral satisfaction of cooking something fresh and of the moment.
Sugar snap peas split the difference.
They have the seasonal appeal of fresh peas in the pod but are much faster to handle because you can eat the whole thing, succulent green shell and all. Just pull off the stems and they’re ready to go. raw or cooked. I munch on them straight out of the bag, by themselves or paired with something to contrast with their crisp texture and sugar content. Runny and salty cheese, bits of fatty salami or prosciutto, or some soft and briny olives do nicely.
Or I let them star (or in this case, co-star) in a main course. In this recipe, I’ve paired them with crab and tossed it all into pasta.
The thing about combining peas and crab is that it can be hard to determine which element is sweeter. The peas are earthy, grassy and sweet, like a spring breeze moving through baby green leaves in the trees. Crab has a whole other kind of sweetness, a salty, beachy, nearly summer sweetness.
Together, these two could make a dish cloying, unless you stop them with a jolt of acid and a smack of heat. Lemon juice and zest and a hit of red chile flakes do the job. Mint goes well with both the sweet and savory elements in the bowl.
The whole thing comes together quickly – a complex, pretty dish that satisfies on a weeknight.
Crab Pasta With Snap Peas and Mint
Fine sea salt, as needed
8 ounces linguine or spaghetti
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, to taste
1 cup sliced sugar snap peas
2 green onions, whites and greens (both light and dark) thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon red chile flakes, more to taste
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
8 ounces crab meat, preferably lump
2/3 cup torn mint leaves
Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
Flaky sea salt, for serving
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and boil until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk in 1/2 cup pasta water, then stir in snap peas, green onions, chile flakes and a large pinch of salt. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until peas are tender. Stir in lemon zest and mix well.
Add drained pasta to the pan along with crab, 1/3 cup mint, the lemon juice and black pepper. Toss, adding more pasta water if the mixture looks dry, until warmed through. Remove from heat and serve topped with remaining mint, a drizzle of oil, more lemon if you’d like, and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.
Yield: 2 to 3 servings