Cooked peas are low in calories, fat-free and a good source of fiber, vitamin C and vitamin A. They also contain calcium and iron. The key to bright, fresh tasting peas is minimal cooking. Whether blanching, steaming or roasting, there are many ways to cook peas that result in dishes that take advantage of the vegetable's health benefits and are far from bland and mushy -- cook peas just long enough to heat them through and add them last to any dish cooked with other ingredients.
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Steaming peas helps them retain nutrients, flavor and their vibrant green color. Mix equal parts of white wine and water for your steaming liquid and add a sprig of fresh rosemary or a few leaves of basil for subtle flavoring. You can add frozen peas straight from the bag to your steamer basket or use fresh peas. The peas are done when they're just turning tender and are still bright green. Season with sea salt and chopped fresh herbs if desired before serving.
When adding peas to a stir-fry, wait until the other ingredients are nearly cooked through before mixing in. A simple stir-fry of rice seasoned with low-sodium soy sauce allows the flavor of the peas to shine. For a fast stir-fry, toss cooked rice noodles or angel hair pasta in a pan with olive oil, sauteed zucchini, chopped tomatoes and peas, and season with lemon juice and fresh herbs. Sauteed shrimp and peas make a quick topping for pasta or a warm salad.
Soups and Stews
Add peas in the last 5 minutes of cooking soups and stews to prevent them from becoming mushy. Use fresh or frozen peas in a traditional beef stew or a vegetarian stew made with beans and mixed vegetables. Peas add color and texture to a Southwestern-style chicken stew and to low-fat turkey chili. Use peas in a vegetable-laden minestrone soup, or puree in a blender or food processor with sauteed leeks, fresh mint and chicken broth for a creamy soup.
Pureed peas provide a flavorful sauce for seafood and create a visually attractive presentation on a dinner plate. Steam peas until they are tender and add to a blender or food processor with a small amount of liquid and seasonings. Add a little olive oil while the peas are whirling until you reach the desired consistency. Flavor with mint, garlic and parmesan cheese. British cook Nigella Lawson recommends pureeing peas with green Thai curry and cilantro for an Asian-inspired puree. Serve with seared scallops, salmon or grilled prawns.