I’ve never tired of the classic Italian formula of a raw vegetable — most commonly arugula, thinly sliced fennel or raw baby artichoke hearts — dressed with olive oil, lemon and thin shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. One day when I was looking around my market, I thought, “Why not try not making it with sugar snap peas?”
I sliced the sugar snaps on an extreme diagonal to reveal the tiny peas hidden within and applied the basic dressing to make a quick, surprising play on the classic hors d’oeuvre. It’s a perfect recipe: at once rustic and sophisticated, easy for even the novice cook, with the bright appeal of a plate of fresh peas. Sugar snaps are in season now.I often serve this dish as an hors d’oeuvre with drinks while I’m getting the rest of the meal together. I put a bowl of it on the table for guests to spoon onto small plates, accompanied by good bread. They always ask for the recipe.
As for the cheese you use, it can be just about any good aged shaving cheese from classic Parmigiano Reggiano to Manchego to aged Gouda. Dense younger cheeses such as Ricotta Salata and Pecorino Toscano are also lovely.
Note: The diagonal slicing technique used for the sugar snaps works well for all manner of oblong vegetables, from asparagus, carrots and cucumbers to eggplant and parsnips; it gives them an unfussily elegant look and makes them pleasing to eat.
Recipe: Sliced Sugar Snap Peas with Shaved Aged Cheese
4 cups sugar snap peas (about 12 ounces)
Lemon and Olive Oil Dressing:
1 garlic clove, bruised then cut in half lengthwise, green sprout (if any) removed
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juicev or more to taste
Pinch kosher salt
About 1/4 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
One 2-inch strip lemon zest, cut into thin slivers
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 to 3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Manchego, Aged Gouda or Ricotta Salata
With a chef’s knife, cut the sugar snap peas on an extreme diagonal into thirds or halves, discarding any tough stem ends. Place in a plastic bag and refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 4 hours before).
Make the Lemon and Olive Oil Dressing: Rub the cut side of one of the garlic halves over the inside of a small bowl. Add the lemon juice, salt and sugar. Spear both garlic halves with a dinner fork. Using this as a whisk, drizzle in the olive oil until the sauce has formed a thin emulsion with a subtle garlic flavor; discard the garlic.
Up to 1/2 hour before serving, Add the sugar snap peas and lemon zest and toss to coat; season with fresh pepper.
Just before serving, using a mechanical slicer or a vegetable peeler, shave the Parmigiano into paper-thin shavings; scatter over the peas, toss gently.