peas, speck, and ricotta: hmmmmm…. ::::
Peas are not my thing. I could barely stomach them as a child, forcing them each down with a gulp of milk at some dinnertimes. (“She eating them like pills!” my dad once irritably remarked to my mother.) Even as an adult, I’ve tried to be non-judgmental. I’ve tried them with mint, feta, with pasta, with rice, in soups: I just can’t warm up to them. They are still not a favorite.
So what a surprise when I felt led to make the pea porridge in my most recent (July edition) Food & Wine magazine. There it was: the striking green in the photo, the Serrano ham cradled on top, and the small raggedy tumble of fresh ricotta. The beauty came with the sum of its parts, and so I could nothing but succumb.
I opted for speck instead of Serrano ham and decided on basil instead of tarragon. The juniper-flavored speck, cured and smoked hindquarters of a pig, is a nice substitute for bacon or pancetta. It is quite salty so a little goes a long way. I had basil on hand and thought the sweetness would go well with the sweetness of the (cough, gag) peas. I also made my ricotta (recipe here) because I knew store-bought ricotta wouldn’t cut it.
So what does a pea-hater think of this dish? I liked the combination of the earthy sweetness of the peas, crackly salty speck, and the buttery, fresh ricotta. But peas without the sundries? Meh. Even Eat (pea-tolerator) and my brother (self-proclaimed pea-liker) were unimpressed. Pea porridge, you did your best, but it’s just not good enough. I agree with artist Natalie Dee.
pea porridge with fresh ricotta and speck
Author: story of a kitchen (minimally adapted from Food & Wine magazine, July 2011)
Recipe type: soup
- 4 paper-thin slices of speck (I made extra to crunch on; you really only need two)
- 3 cups fresh or frozen peas, thawed + ½ cup for garnish (I did not garnish because seemed kind of... ew.)
- ¼ cup plain 2% Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon raspberry vinegar
- ½ cup milk, warmed
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- cayenne pepper
- ¼ cup fresh ricotta (recipe here)
- pea shoots, for garnish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Lay the speck on a rack set over a baking sheet and bake until crisp. This took about 8 minutes for me. Let cool, then break into shards.
- In a saucepan of boiling salted water, cook 3 cups of the peas until tender, 3 minutes. 3. Drain and transfer to a food processor. Add the yogurt, basil, and vinegar and process to a chunky puree. Add the milk and pulse to blend; transfer to a saucepan and reheat.
- Season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Spoon the porridge into bowls. Top with the ricotta, speck, pea shoots and remaining peas (if using); serve warm.