Anyone who has ever tried to feed a small child knows that their tastes can be unpredictable, particularly when it comes to vegetables. It is a myth that young children hate all vegetables — the problem is that you never know which vegetable they will like on any given day. Nuni will happily munch on florets of raw broccoli (she saw it on Sesame Street), but will turn up her nose at the cooked stuff, even if it’s slathered in cheese, even though she LOVES cheese. She’ll eat a carrot, but only if the top is still attached, and she likes to squeeze all the insides from grape tomatoes without actually tasting them. In short, I never know how she’ll approach a vegetable, unless that vegetable is a pea.
I don’t know what it is about peas – maybe it’s the sweet flavor, the diminuitive size, or the bright color – but they seem to be particularly appealing to children. This salad, which I adapted from my favorite but now sadly defunct parenting magazine, Wondertime, is a great use of peas that appeals to children and adults alike. The natural sweetness of peas is a perfect foil to smoky, crunchy bacon, savory nuts and sharp onion.
It uses frozen peas (which are often sweeter than fresh, as their sugar hasn’t turned to starch before freezing), and comes together in just a few minutes. Cook the bacon (15 minutes in a 400 degree oven yields perfectly crisp bacon, every time), mix up the dressing, and add chopped onions, crumbled bacons, toasted nuts and defrosted peas (holding them under cold running water for about 30 seconds usually does the trick). If you can find roasted and salted pecans, they’re terrific (just adjust seasoning to taste) but if you use raw pecans, toast them first for more depth of flavor. The ingredients don’t sound like much, but the salad holds together remarkably well, and is curiously addictive.
It’s also a great solution to the summer barbecue pot luck problem. If potato salad and coleslaw are already spoken for, bring along this pea salad. It’s unusual without being scary, and the bacon echoes the flavors of the grill. Plus, if there are kids at the gathering, there’s actually a decent chance they’ll eat this. Of course, with kids and vegetables, there are no guarantees, but peas give you a fighting chance.
- ½ cup mayonnaise (I always say Hellman's or Best Foods, but I've just discovered the joys of Trader Joe's real mayonnaise)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vinegar (I use apple cider)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Ground pepper to taste
- ¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 10 oz frozen peas, thawed and drained
- ½ cup toasted chopped pecans
- 6 slices bacon
- ¼ cup minced red onion
- Cook bacon in a 400 degree oven until crisp, about 15 minutes. Crumble and set aside.
- Combine mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, pepper, and worcestershire sauce in a salad bowl.
- Add peas, bacon, nuts and onion, toss thoroughly and chill before serving.