Getting Funky with Sweet Peas

April 1, 2015 by Kurt Hanarhan

Lately, some of my favorite wake-up-start-the-day-off-right music to listen to is the funky rhythms of the James Brown backing band, otherwise known as the J.B.'s. In particular, I enjoy their big hit “Pass the Peas”.

In the beginning of the track, the band shouts to Bobby Byrd, their leader, why do you like soul food? His reply, Because it makes me... haaaapppy! The tune then proceeds into an uncomplicated, mostly instrumental song with simple lyrics, often repeating its title, over and over again. It’s catchy, and oh so sweet.

In honor of the simpleness of this song and the start of the spring growing season, I’ve put together a recipe that embodies the rhythm and oh-so-sweetness of the J.B.'s classic tune by using one of the years first harvested vegetables, the sweet pea. Traditionally planted in the home garden on St. Patrick’s Day, sweet peas are sure to sprout and bear fruit just as this cold of winter is forgotten and replaced by the invigorating rhythms of spring.

Like Bobby Byrd says in the song, this recipe will be sure to make you...haaaapppy!

Pass the Peas Pesto with Orecchiette and Feta

Makes 5 servings

  • 1 lb. Orecchiette pasta
  • 8 oz. sweet peas (fresh or frozen)
  • handful of mint
  • handful of spinach
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • ½ cup pasta water
  • chopped lemon rind (optional)
  • lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • extra-virgin olive oil to consistency
  • 8 oz. feta cheese

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add orecchiette until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving about ½ cup of the water.

While pasta is cooking, quickly toast sesame seeds on a medium heated pan, stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes.

Place garlic cloves, peas, mint, spinach, and a long “glug” (about 1 tablespoon) of olive oil into a high-powered blender or food processor. Begin blending at a low speed, adding oil, lemon juice, and lemon rinds to create a smooth, creamy consistency. Remove sesame seeds from heat and add to the blender. Turn blender to high, adding more water and oil as needed. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pour pasta into a lightly oiled saucepan, top with pesto and mix under low heat. Transfer to plates or pasta bowl and top with finger-broken feta pieces. Salt and pepper to taste. Pass the peas!