The phone on my desk beeped and lit up, and after a brief pause, the page came through: “I have spring pea salad in the general kitchen” Associate Editor Annie Petito's voice echoed through the office. She was developing a salad centered on the snap, snow, and English varieties that show up early in the season and are briefly but gloriously tender and sweet enough to be eaten raw. Spring on a platter was the goal, albeit a lofty one.
I got up from my desk and headed to the kitchen. Entering the buzzy space, I walked past wide stainless-steel prep tables, rows of six-burner stovetops, dozens of wall ovens, busy test cooks, and experiments in progress. There were green beans charring in a skillet, pans of fudgy brownies cooling on the counter nearby, and a roasting pan cradling a quivering, mahogany hunk of roasted pork shoulder.
I spotted Annie on the far side of the kitchen, stationed behind one of the prep tables, and made a beeline for her. On the table she'd laid out an elemental test: orderly piles of snap and snow peas that she'd cut into matchsticks, diamonds, and chunky halves. Half of each sample was left raw, while the verdant color of the other half suggested that it had been briefly boiled and then shocked in an ice bath. Annie was trying to figure out the best way to treat each of the different peas to capture their ephemeral qualities. As I munched, I noted my preference for the long, thin strips of raw snow peas: They tangled nicely on my fork, and their crispness gave way to a savory-sweet juiciness. The heartier snap peas, on the other hand, were improved by a little heat—the blanched samples tasted sweeter and had transformed from crunchy to crisp. I made my opinions known and headed back to my desk.
It might seem generous to call that a salad tasting. After all, it included no leafy greens, garnishes, dressing, or even salt. But that was just the point. Over the next few weeks, Annie conducted dozens more tests and broke down every ingredient and method with just as much focus. Slowly, daily, we turned our attention to each component, arguing over how to slice the radishes and whether or not fresh mint was a must (it was). And finally, the artful composition of our Spring Pea Salad recipe revealed itself: crisp snow pea threads, plump sugar snap peas, and just-shelled English peas, accented with spicy baby arugula and radish half-moons and mounded atop a creamy Greek yogurt and olive oil dressing. Spring on a platter, indeed.
Editor in Chief