Make The Most Of Chemistry Between Peas And Carrots

Posted: May 07, 1997

Ever since many of us can remember, a common accompaniment for the meat at dinner has been peas and carrots. All too often this side dish was not particularly exciting. Usually it consisted of mushy carrot cubes and grayish-green peas.

In the process of canning, their colors were muted and their texture became soft and tired. Frozen peas and carrots did not produce excellent results, either.

However, peas and carrots can be a lively combination. My favorite formula is to combine fresh carrots with sugar snap peas. These wonderful peas are a cross of snow peas with green peas. They are a terrific partner for carrots, especially if you are careful to cook the vegetables only until they are tender-crisp. The bright green pea pods with the vivid orange carrot sticks make a beautiful accompaniment for chicken or meat.

For the busy cook, fast-cooking sugar snap peas have an obvious advantage over green peas: There's no need to shell them, as you eat the whole pods. Still, removing the ends does take a few minutes. By mixing these noble peas with an equal amount of carrots, you save time and money.

This vegetable medley is delicious even served plain, but is best when sprinkled with a touch of oil, butter or a quick Chinese blend of soy sauce, hoisin sauce and rice vinegar, as in the recipe below. With their naturally sweet taste, the vegetables need no sugar.

Frozen peas, too, make a good partner for fresh carrots and require no preparation before cooking. If you're careful to add the peas to the pan of carrots for only the last 2 or 3 minutes of cooking, the dish will be pretty and tasty.

Nutritionally, the two vegetables complement each other well. Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, while peas have vitamin C, iron, folate and protein.

Nature gives us another reason for serving peas and carrots together. In many areas of the country, new spring carrots and the first peas are ready at the same time. In my own garden in Los Angeles, though, the carrots are still small because I planted them too late.

In contrast, I've been picking lots of sugar snap peas for several weeks. And after watching their vines struggle to cling to their trellis during the fierce Santa Ana winds, I truly appreciate each one.

* This elegant, easy-to-make salad combines dried Chinese mushrooms, carrots and sugar snap peas and can be served warm or cold. The tasty dressing is flavored with hoisin sauce and a touch of sesame oil.

SUGAR SNAP PEA, CARROT AND BLACK MUSHROOM SALAD 8 large dried Chinese black mushrooms, soaked in hot water 20 minutes

2 large carrots (about 8 ounces), peeled

Salt to taste

8 ounces sugar snap peas, rinsed, ends removed

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons hoisin sauce

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Remove mushrooms from soaking water and rinse them. Halve caps and discard stems.

Cut carrots into chunks of same length as sugar snap peas. Cut each chunk into lengthwise slices about 1/4 inch thick. Cut any wide slices in half lengthwise to form sticks.

Combine carrots and mushrooms in medium saucepan. Add salt and water to cover. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer 3 minutes. Add sugar snap peas and boil, uncovered, over high heat 2 to 3 minutes or until peas are tender-crisp. Drain in colander. If serving cold, rinse with cold water and drain well.

Whisk soy sauce, hoisin sauce and vinegar until combined. Whisk in oils. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss dressing with vegetables. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot or cold. Makes four servings.

Nutritional data per serving: Calories, 67; protein, 2 grams; carbohydrates, 9 grams; fat, 3 grams; cholesterol, 0.8 milligrams; sodium, 265 milligrams.

Faye Levy is the author of ``30 Low-Fat Vegetarian Meals in 30 Minutes'' )

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