I have a secret love affair with peas. Yes, I love them in their fresh-from-the-pod form, but during the winter months, I use their frozen cousins. I spice them in my favorite manner, similar to a dish I had in Cochin, Kerala, in Southern India, and eat them up with a large spoon, stopping only for a quick bite of naan or dollop of raita.
This dish is a perfect accompaniment for something hearty like a braised meat or stewed lentils because of its decided spice and bright lemony flavors. It's dishes like this that I feel best about having up my sleeve, because a plate of these peas can turn even a bowl of pasta into a trip down the backwaters of Kerala. I love being transported by food. I would argue it's one of the best ways to relive exciting journeys or entice yourself into an unknown locale by making some of the country's fare.
Do you do this? Travel with your palate into unknown cuisines? I'd like to make more of a habit of it. For now, I'm happy with a simple recipe great for a weeknight dinner. Taking a familiar ingredient and dressing it in South Indian flavors? A wonderful idea!
Kerala Spiced Peas
2 tablespoons ghee (ghee is clarified butter and imparts a unique flavor here)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 green thai chili, minced (more if you like it really spicy)
1 onion, sliced
One 1-pound bag frozen peas
2 tablespoons fresh ginger
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
juice from one lemon
cilantro (optional garnish)
In a large skillet, heat the ghee on a medium-high heat. When ghee is hot, put the cumin seeds, mustard seeds in the pan and stir for about 1-2 minutes, until seeds start to pop. Place the coriander, cardamom, chili and onion in the pan and cook until onions begin to sweat, about 5 minutes. Add the peas, ginger, garlic and salt and pepper to taste.
Stir continuously on a high heat for about 3 minutes, until the peas cook through. Finally, add the lemon juice to peas and serve garnished with cilantro.
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)