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Toast with Lemony Pea Spread

Cheese and crackers, chips and salsa, pita and hummus….all are standard fare for appetizers and all are delicious.  But appetizers that are a little different always catch my eye in cooking magazines or cookbooks.  This delicious app was featured in the April 2013 issue of Bon Appetite in a spread on Peas and a tagline that read, “There’s no better way to ring in spring than with fresh peas from the market.”  I was skeptical at first but the recipes that followed looked amazing:  Pea, Asparagus and Fava Bean Salad, Minty Pea Soup and this yummy appetizer that they referred to as Toast with Lemony Pea Mash.  I have discounted peas for a long time thinking that they are good for nothing more than a 1950s style buttery green side dish which didn’t pack much of a nutritional punch (or in the frozen form, an ice pack!).  I was inspired by the Bon Appetite article to think about peas in a different way…something that can be totally transformed into a hip and healthy dish. So here you go….a healthy and super flavorful appetizer to take to your next party.  I adapted it a little bit to reflect the ingredients that I didn’t have (see below for notes on my changes).

Toast with Lemony Pea Spread (Serves 6)

Ingredients:

1 garlic clove, quartered

1/4 cup fresh parsley

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided (more for toast)

1 Tbsp lemon infused olive oil (regular would work fine if you don’t have this)

2 cups frozen peas, thawed

2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped

1 lemon (1 -2 Tbsp. juice and zest of entire lemon)

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (original recipe called for Aleppo pepper, which is a Middle Eastern spice)

fresh ground pepper

ciabatta bread, sliced into 12 slices and toasted

*The original recipe called for an ingredient called preserved lemon peel which I could not find at the regular grocery and frankly, I didn’t even know what it was.  I did a bit of research and found that preserved lemons are used a lot in Moroccan cooking.  They are lemons that are salted and jarred and left for quite awhile for the salt to break down the lemon rind until it has a wholly new, unique, less bitter flavor. I made up an alternative to the preserved lemons which was pretty good but now I am dying to try to preserve my own lemons…stay tuned for that post.

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Directions:

In small bowl, combine zest of one full lemon, 1-2 Tbsp lemon infused olive oil, 1 tsp sea salt.  Cover and let chill (this will be used to top the pea mash).  For pea mash, combine garlic, parsley, 1 Tbsp. oil, a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup water and peas in small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until peas are tender (about 2-3 minutes). Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.  Put pea mixture in food processor and pulse until it becomes a paste texture.  Transfer to a medium bowl, mix in chives, 1/2 tsp of the lemon zest mixture, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, and 2 Tbsp. olive oil.  Stir in reserved cooking liquid by tablespoonful until mixture is thick but spreadable.  Season with salt, black pepper and more lemon juice if desired. Place ciabatta bread slices on baking sheet, and bake at 350 for a few minutes or until toasted.  Pull out and brush top of bread with olive oil.  Broil for another minute or two watching to make sure they don’t burn.  Spread pea mash on each toast.  Top with 1/2 tsp lemon zest mixture and red pepper flakes.  Serve immediately.