Every year I overload myself with summer recipes I want to test, photograph, post, and share. And every summer I find myself in a race against the calendar to get them all ship-shape and blog-ready before everything gives way to pumpkins and pecan pie. There is so much produce to play with during the summer and so little time. So every year, I leave this season with food-related regrets. Missing sour cherry season this year really burned my biscuits. But one thing I did not miss was pea season. And out of the numerous peas-related adventures I embarked upon this year, these Marinated Sweet Peas with Back Bacon and Burrata were my very favorite.
Fresh peas are a treat that tends to escape people’s notice. I think we think of the pea as being humble and commonplace. I totally get it. Most of the year, I buy bags of the frozen guys and cook them up as a last-minute attempt to put something green on my dinner plate. I believe peas aren’t treated with a lot of reverence for this reason. We think of them as the stuff TV dinners and cafeteria chafing dishes. And 10 out of 12 months of the year, we’re absolutely right. But when you can get fresh peas, you realize they’re a whole lot more than a fish stick’s sidekick.
A fresh pea has more bite and a more verdant flavor than the ones we cram into our freezers. And, let me tell you, they’re called sweet peas for a reason. They are truly sweet and when they’re cooked properly, they burst in your mouth in such a pleasant way. I know that the last line came across dirty, but I was at a loss on how to clean it up.
But what to do with a fresh pea? Well, you should prepare fresh, peak season peas as you would peak season tomatoes – with a light touch. Cook them briefly in salted boiling water and from there it could be as simple as adding a knob of butter. In my case, I went with a shallot vinaigrette, which is admittedly more complex than a simple bit of butter but only just. And the sweetness of the peas plays beautifully off of the tang of the apple cider vinaigrette and the sharpness of whole-grain Dijon.
Now, the back bacon may seem like a random companion to these Marinated Sweet Peas, but I promise it makes a lot of sense. And anyway, if it didn’t make sense but tasted delicious, I still would’ve suggested the pairing. But the back bacon was both delicious and sensical.
The back bacon or peameal bacon makes sense because it’s salty. Peas are quite sweet and the two play off of one another beautifully. You and I both know this. In the winter split peas and ham hocks get along famously in a stockpot, so think of these Marinated Sweet Peas with Back Bacon as summer’s answer to pea soup. And to further establish the summery attributes of this refreshing dish, burrata was invited to the party.
Name a more summery cheese than burrata…You haven’t said anything because you can’t think of one… and you’re not currently here – also a factor. Burrata is the cheese of summer. It’s creamy, light, and oddly refreshing, which isn’t a word one would often use to describe a piece of cheese. It pairs well with just about any fresh fruit or veggie, which is incredibly handy when everything is in season. And burrata has the chew of bocconcini as well as the ooze of clotted cream. It’s both unimposing and beyond addictive, which are not two words I would normally pair with one another.
The truth of the matter is, what burrata lacks in flavor it more than makes up for in texture and contrast. And that’s not to say burrata tastes like nothing – that isn’t remotely true. It has the sweetness of fresh cream and when the salt balance is just right, the greater nuances of its gentle flavor are further enhanced. But I think most people love burrata because of its chewy exterior and perfectly runny center. It’s essentially the soft boiled egg of the cheese world. And like a soft boiled egg, it’s pretty much at home on top of anything. Like sweet peas for instance.
So that’s pretty much everything you need to know about these Marinated Sweet Peas with Back Bacon and Burrata. A quick, easy starter or full-on meal that pairs perfectly with golden crostini and a bottle of crisp white wine. In other words, this is the ultimate in August dining.
Marinated Sweet Peas with Back Bacon and Burrata
- 400g fresh peas
- 3 shallots quartered and sliced
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp whole-grain Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp salt divided
- fresh ground pepper
- ⅓ baguette or 2 hamburger buns sliced thin
- 6 slices pea meal bacon
- 1 ball burrata
- fresh mint leaves to garnish
- fresh basil leaves to garnish
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Place a saucepan of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add a healthy pinch of salt and add the peas. Boil the peas for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Drain the peas and immediately plunge them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Drain the peas again and place them in a large bowl.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk to combine the shallots, a ¼ cup of the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, half of the salt, and fresh ground pepper. Pour the mixture over the peas and toss to coat. Cover the peas and transfer to the fridge. Leave the peas to marinate for 2 hours.
- Pour half of the remaining olive oil over a large baking sheet, use a pastry brush to ensure the sheet is evenly coated. Arrange the slices of bread evenly on the sheet and drizzle them with the rest of the oil. Sprinkle them with the remaining salt.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the crostini until golden, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer the crostini to a cooling wrack and let cool completely.
- Once the peas are finished marinating, it's time to fry the bacon. Place the bacon in a cold skillet and place over medium heat. Cook the bacon until lightly browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the bacon to a cutting board and cut into cubes. Set aside.
- Spoon the peas into a shallow serving bowl and top with bacon and burrata. Garnish the dish with mint leaves and fresh basil and serve immediately with a basket of the crostini on the side.