Food & Wine (May 2014)
The other day, we got to chatting with some friends about the first live concert each of us had ever seen. (For Clay: Billy Ray Cyrus. For Zach: R.E.M. God, we just dated ourselves.)
Anyway, the conversation turned to upcoming concerts of throwback bands. One friend said she was about to go see 10,000 Maniacs.
"Oh," we said. "We didn't know Natalie Merchant was touring!"
"She's not," our friend said. "I didn't realize it when I bought to tickets, but, um, it's just the Maniacs."
Just the Maniacs? No offense, but Natalie was the star of the show, the reason to be there. Seeing "the Maniacs" is like seeing just the E Street Band, or just the Blowfish, or just the Pips.
Why are we yammering about frontmen? Because, like a headliner concert band, these Sugar Snap Peas with Mint and Warm Coconut Dressing have a clear star -- and would probably work just as well as a solo act.
Want to guess who's the frontman here?
It's the snap peas. We love them, and they're at the height of their season right now.
Honestly, sugar snaps are so good -- to us, anyway -- that they don't even need the citrus here. And they definitely don't need this coconut dressing.
Here's the gist of this recipe: Sugar snaps are cooked in sesame oil, then tossed with orange and mint. Then you make a simple sauce using primarily unsweetened coconut milk.
(We've suggested a change in the method in the recipe notes below -- to clean the skillet between making the peas and the sauce. The first time we made this, it produced an unappetizing brown sauce because sesame oil residue was still in the skillet.)
The mix of sugar snap peas and oranges is good. It's a different variation on a similar dish we made nearly six years ago (six years!) -- Sugar Snap Peas with Mint and Orange, from Bon Appetit. But we really didn't care for the Warm Coconut Dressing. It's completely forgettable. It tastes watery, it doesn't look good on the plate, and its flavor doesn't add anything to the amazingness of spring sugar snaps.
Personally, we'd prefer plain ol' sugar snap peas right now. We've been craving spring produce so much this year that gussying it up with citrus and a creamy dressing just feels unneccesary. Give us the "Artist Unplugged" version of this dish -- not the arena concert with backup singers.
That said, if you've never had sugar snaps flavored with orange and mint, though, it's worth a try. It's a nice combination if you want something other than simple peas on their own. Use this recipe as a template or revisit the recipe we made back in 2009. You'll like the results.
Just skip the dressing on this one.
Total time: 25 minutes
Notes from Zach and Clay
We edited the recipe below, between when the peas are removed from the skillet after being cooked in sesame oil, and when the coconut milk is added to the pan. The first time we made this dish, it resulted in an unappetizing brown sauce.
1 blood or navel orange
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 pound sugar snap peas
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of sugar
Chopped mint and freshly cracked pepper, for garnish.
Using a sharp knife, peel the orange, making sure to remove all of the bitter white pith. Halve the orange lengthwise and slice it crosswise 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the slices to a small bowl.
In a medium skillet, heat the sesame oil. Add the sugar snap peas in a single layer and cook over moderately high heat, without stirring, until nicely charred, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the peas to a medium bowl and season lightly with salt. [Note from The Bitten Word: Wipe the skillet clean.]
Add the coconut milk, lemon juice and sugar to the skillet and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until the dressing is thickened, 5 minutes. Spoon the dressing onto plates and top with the sugar snaps and orange slices. Garnish with mint and pepper and serve warm.