There is a sweetness to the mid-summer palette of crops. The sweetness comes from the greenness. It comes from the sun and the plants. The reward for enduring the intolerable humid heat of mid-July is the green treats I find while “sidewalk foraging” at farmers’ markets.
Sugar snap peas are one of these coveted finds. They even come wrapped in a little package, like a favorite childhood hard candy, but this package is edible. They are two layers of green sweetness that are quite delicious with minimal preparation, perfect for hot days when generating heat in the kitchen is kept to a minimum.
The Asian origins of snap peas invite complimentary flavors from that same part of the world. Sesame and rice vinegar are two essential introductions to building flavors that won’t overpower the subtle sweetness of these crops.
Rice vinegar may be familiar to many from the popularity of sushi. It is the delicate vinegar that is stirred into the sticky rice that accompanies sushi fish. It is a mild, slightly sweet vinegar made from the fermentation of rice. It is less acidic than many vinegars so can be a good introduction to the use of vinegars for seasoning. Adding an acidic ingredient like a vinegar, or citrus juice like lemon or lime juice, is an effective way to round out the flavor without adding fat or added sugars.
A vital note when using vinegar with green vegetables like sugar snap peas is to wait until just before serving before combining the green and the vinegar. The acidity in the vinegar will discolor the bright green of the farm freshness if they sit too long. They will turn into a pale, dull green.
So, if you are preparing the most basic of sugar snap peas when you returned home from the farmers’ market, rinse them, snap off the stem end which will also remove the string along the long edge of the pod, and place them in a mixing bowl about twice as large as the amount of vegetable. Chop and add some mild onion or sweet peppers from the market. Drizzle a few drops of toasted sesame oil, if you wish, a few drops of rice vinegar, some sesame seeds and a dash of coarse sea salt. Stir with a large spoon.
Be cautious as you begin to use new seasonings and learn quantities. You can always add more but you can’t remove. Taste, then, if you feel a dash more rice vinegar is needed, shake it in and stir again. These can be served on its own, atop a green salad, as part of a radish and cabbage slaw, or stirred into some pre-cooked rice or cold soba or rice noodles. On these hottest of days, I will often cook a pot of noodles or a pot of rice late in the evening, after the sun’s heat has faded a bit, that I can utilize for the next several days.