Peas with Big Hunks of Feta and Zhoug
Source: Andy Baraghani, The Cook You Want to Be
This recipe was demonstrated at the Foodwise Classroom on May 28, 2022.
Once in your life, maybe twice, buy a bag of fresh English peas, split the pods, and use your thumbs to push out the petit pois. All that work! So little yield! The rest of the time, buy them frozen. Organic frozen peas are picked at their peak freshness and, to me, are more reliable than the fresh ones, which can sometimes be starchy and so hard to find. I like to treat the simple peas elaborately. A spicy Yemeni zhoug for green-on-green intensity, plus big hunks of fatty, salty feta, make this a dish I want to shovel into my mouth with the biggest spoon I own.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced into rings
2 cups shelled fresh or frozen and thawed English peas
¼ cup water
Freshly ground pepper
½ cup zhoug (see recipe below)
4 ounces feta cheese (blotted dry if you have the time)
Pour the olive oil into a skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring now and then, until the shallot starts to soften and get a little browned, 4 to 6 minutes.
Add the peas and water to the skillet (or just a splash of water if you’re using frozen peas, which are already mostly cooked). Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender, 4 to 6 minutes for fresh and about 1 minute for ones that have been thawed.
Turn off the heat and scrape in the zhoug, stirring until each little pea is flecked with it. Taste a spoonful and adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper.
Spoon the peas into a shallow bowl. Slice the feta into large shards and toss it on the peas before serving.
The Yemenite condiment zhoug (pronounced “zoog”) has many variations, and although the green version is the most popular, it can also be red. No matter the color, it should be brilliantly hot. If you want a mild sauce, that’s not zhoug. I make this in a mortar and pestle but you can also hand chop everything into almost a powder (I’m kidding! … kind of), but I’ll look away if you need to pull out the food processor. It’s a thick, powerful sauce, so although this recipe yields just ½ cup, a dab goes a long way.
Yields ½ cup
1 garlic clove
2 serrano or jalapeno chiles, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
¼ cup finely chopped mint
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic a few times. Add a pinch of salt, then continue to mash the garlic until it turns into a paste.
Add the chiles and keep mashing until they have mostly broken down and your paste has taken on a greenish hue.
Add the parsley and mint and get into the groove, mashing and stirring, back and forth, until the herbs have bruised and slightly darkened.
Stir in the coriander, cumin, olive oil, and lemon juice to get a thick green paste and then season with salt.
Get a taste by dipping your pinkie into the sauce. Wait 15 minutes and taste again. See how the flavor transformed? Patience. Use the zhoug soon after you make it.
Reprinted with permission from The Cook You Want To Be by Andy Baraghani, copyright © 2022. Published by Lorena Jones Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.