Over the years my favorite appetizer has evolved from the classic Italian combination of raw vegetables - most commonly arugula, thinly sliced fennel and raw baby artichoke hearts- dressed with olive oil and lemon and thin shavings of Parmigiano. One day when I was looking around my market, I thought, "Why not try not making it with sugar snap peas?" I sliced them on an extreme diagonal to reveal the peas hidden within, and applied the basic Italian formula to make a 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.
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 friends to spoon onto small plates, accompanied by good bread. Guests always ask for the recipe.
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
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
1. 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).
2. 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.
3. Up to 1/2 hour before serving, Add the sugar snap peas and lemon zest and toss to coat; season with fresh pepper.
4. Just before serving, using a mechanical slicer or a vegetable peeler, shave the Parmigiano into paper-thin shavings; scatter over the peas, toss gently.
Reprinted with permission from The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider
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