In Season Peas

Peas are in season from May through June.

Peas add color and snap to early summer dishes, which is why chefs ditch the frozen and canned versions for fresh-from-the-garden varieties paired with bright ingredients.

Mac ‘n’ Cheese 

The build-your-own mac ‘n’ cheese at Beer Kitchen in Kansas City’s Westport neighborhood first appeared on the menu at McCoy’s Public House, its sister restaurant, nearly two decades ago. Back then, people were surprised to see the comfort food side presented as an entrée. At Beer Kitchen, managing partner Mark Kelpe says peas are one of the most popular add-ins for the build-your-own dish these days. “They’re really delicious and add a nice textural contrast to the jumbo elbow shells,” he says. “They’re a great source of vitamin K, vitamin B1, phosphorus and [folic acid].” They also show up in a side with shiitakes and truffle butter, Kelpe’s grown-up alternative to the frozen peas you probably pushed around your plate as a kid. As for McCoy’s mac ‘n’ cheese, you can still find peas in its Mac Daddy with applewood-smoked bacon, two scoops of Merkt’s sharp Cheddar cheese spread and a focaccia crust. “Growing up, my mother’s culinary repertoire was limited, but she had three or four dishes she made really well, and mac ‘n’ cheese was one of them,” Kelpe says. “I took her recipe and tried to turn it into a more modern dish over the years.”

Beer Kitchen, 435 Westport Road, Westport, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.389.4180, beerkitchenkc.com

Pesto

Sweet-pea pesto tops the lamb sliders at 44 Stone Public House in Columbia, Missouri, along with pickled red onion and cucumber-buttermilk dressing. Chef Kiel Herman calls it a “pseudo-pesto” thanks to the addition of sweet peas to basil, mint and nuts. The pesto doesn’t overpower the sliders; it adds a little sweetness that plays well with the garlic, ginger and other spices in the lamb. “It gives you a little bit of color – it’s nice, vibrant and green and makes a well-rounded balance for the dish as a whole,” Herman says. You’ll also find his puréed take on classic mushy peas to accompany bangers and mash, and he’s done a play on succotash with sweet peas, bacon and walnuts, too. The kitchen at 44 Stone uses in-season and local produce as much as possible, based on what’s available. “Peas are one of those things that as a child, we steer away from because they’re coming from a can or are far overcooked,” Herman says. “But if they’re done fresh and they’re done with a little bit of love, they’re bright green, they snap and they have a delicious flavor.”

44 Stone Public House, 3910 Peachtree Drive, Columbia, Missouri, 573.443.2726, 44stonepub.com

Puréed or Julienned

Executive chef Ray Wiley is in a unique position at Nathalie’s in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis: He gets truly farm-to-table ingredients from owner Nathalie Pettus’ Overlook Farm in Clarksville, Missouri. Wiley uses puréed English peas and puréed carrots as a colorful pair to accompany the restaurant’s Red Wattle pork chop, which is pan-seared and topped with crispy shallots and a honey-whole grain mustard sauce. The pigs, like the peas and carrots, are raised at Overlook Farm. He also features julienned snow peas in a slaw with tilapia cakes; the fish are – you guessed it – also raised at Overlook. This spring, the tilapia dish took on an Asian flavor profile with the addition of ginger, baby bok choy, toasted sesame seeds, ponzu mayo and a sesame vinaigrette. “When [peas] are in season, they’re delicious,” Wiley says. “It’s funny – I hated them as a kid, but as I cooked and experimented with different things, they worked really well.”

Nathalie’s, 4356 Lindell Blvd., Central West End, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.533.1580, nathaliesstl.com

CHEF'S TIP

“[At home], I would caramelize some onions in butter and add peas, and then if you have truffle oil, finish it with that and do a little shaved Parmesan or pecorino Romano.” – Mark Kelpe, managing partner, Beer Kitchen

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