It’s no secret that I love to garden and grow my own vegetables and herbs. For years, Mother’s Day was gardening day. It was the day we spent putting everything into the ground – tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, herbs. Why Mother’s Day? Because, generally speaking, you’re no longer at risk of frost by Mother’s Day. But a few years ago, my friend and neighbor introduced me to a whole new world of early spring gardening that has been amazing. In mid-April, I plant lettuce, spinach, peas, radishes and sometimes carrots. These veggies actually like the cooler temperatures, and they’re not afraid of a little frost. Even better, harvest is so early! I love being able to make garden fresh salads by Memorial Day Weekend. And as much as I am obsessed with fresh lettuce, I think my absolute favorite is the peas. We grow sugar snap peas, snow peas and English peas. This Creamy Orzo & English Peas is a great way to use up those sweet, plump peas that we love so much.
English peas are also known as garden peas, and they’re one of the easiest things to grow in your garden. You’re not technically supposed to eat the pods, but – secret? We eat them all the time. And we haven’t died yet, soooo…. Truly, munching on pea pods straight from the garden is my favorite way to eat them. Simply give them a quick rinse and add them to a crudite tray with a tasty dip and watch them disappear. One small row of peas plants will yield soooo many peas, though, that you may feel the need to start getting creative with how you eat them. I remember when my kids were little, in an effort to get them comfortable with green foods, I would add peas to their mac and cheese. To this day, they still love mac-n-cheese-n-peas more than anything. This Creamy Orzo & English Peas is kind of a grown up version of that old favorite.
You’ll need to pop the peas out of their pods for this recipe, which will be the most time-consuming part. The rest is easy. It will come together in one skillet in about 20 minutes with just a few simple ingredients – some of my favorite ingredients, actually. You’ll start with garlic and white wine. What is it about the smell of garlic cooking in wine that is so intoxicating? I wish someone would make a candle out of the scent, it’s truly one of my favorites. I can think of literally dozens of things that I would cook in just a simple saute of garlic and white wine. I remember being in Italy and a chef cooked a simple chicken breast for me in garlic and white wine and it was literally the best chicken I’ve ever had. To this day, I swear he sprinkled magic in that pan. There’s no way it could have been just garlic and wine! But I digress.
For the creamy component, we’ll use goat cheese. Not only creamy but tangy while still mild, goat cheese is a wonderful summer cheese. I know of only one person in the world who doesn’t like it, and ironically it’s one of my best friends. So if I’m making this Creamy Orzo & English Peas for her, I’ll subbing cream cheese for the goat cheese. And then it’s just herbs – I chose mint, because I feel like peas and mint complement each other really well. There’s just enough mint in this dish to make people ask, “What’s that flavor?” but they can’t really put their finger on it. And since mint grows like a weed in my garden, it’s always on hand in the summer months. If mint ain’t your thing, try using fresh basil instead.
‘This Creamy Orzo & English Peas is an easy and summery meatless meal, and also makes a delicious base for grilled chicken, shrimp or fish. Simply arrange your grilled protein on top and you’ll have a beautiful main course. When it cools, it tends to get clumpy, so if you’re reheating leftovers, add a little bit of water or milk to get that creaminess going again. I’m betting you won’t have leftovers though. Just sayin’. Enjoy!
- 2 cups dry orzo
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup white wine
- 4 oz. goat cheese
- 2 1/2 cups English peas
- 2 Tbsp. mint leaves, chopped
- 1 tsp. salt
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add garlic and saute 1-2 minutes until it sizzles. Add the orzo and saute one more minute until orzo is coated with the oil and garlic. Pour in the chicken broth and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the salt and peas. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in the goat cheese and mint.