Peas have always been my number one enemy. Since I was in diapers. For some reason mothers think babies like peas. Even then I’m sure I raised my tiny harmless fists in protest as spoonful after spoonful of mashed peas flew in circles over my head. “Here comes the airplane,” my mother crooned. I suppose you can make anything taste good so long as it’s masked as an airplane. I probably would’ve eaten dirt if my mom said it was a 737.
Or maybe as a baby I mistook dirt for peas and have since been traumatized—who knows? But strangely, I have always given peas a second, third and umpteenth chance in and out of their pods, mixed in a stew or prowling in a fresh salad, roasted with other vegetables or defiling a main dish. I thought I had tried and hated peas in every possible form and flavor and had nearly given up on them altogether—until I tried peas the Nitsa way.
Everyone wants to be friends with Nitsa, one of the best Greek cooks in Utah. I hang around with her daughter Georgia, so I get to enjoy Nitsa’s company and cooking often. Show up to Nitsa’s house on a random afternoon and she can whip up a full course meal before you take off your shoes. I think that’s due to her Cretan heritage.
One day, she served up kotopoulo (chicken), patates, and her latest and greatest—peas. With a big smile on her loving face. I loaded my plate with the kotopoulo and patates and put three measly peas on my plate so as to not offend the cook. Looking back at it now, the three peas only drew attention to my obvious dislike for them. But being Greek and terrified of offending the cook, I tasted those three NITSA’S PEAS. To my surprise, I loved them, and then went back for an actual serving and licked my plate clean. We’re talking mounds of peas for a zero tolerance pea gal. I had to have the recipe.
Nitsa’s peas made me a believer. They have so many flavors: tomatoes, garlic, onions, and lots of extra virgin olive oil. I suggest adding feta on the side for a salty touch and some bread to mop up the juices—look at me, the pea expert now! Nitsa’s easy peasy peas are a Saltas family favorite.
- 24 ounces peas (frozen or fresh)
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped (or 15-ounce can)
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- ¼ cup white wine (optional)
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- Thaw peas beforehand if using frozen.
- In a large pot, heat olive oil over low heat and sauté the onions until translucent. Sprinkle the onions lightly with salt. Add in the garlic and stir in for 5 more minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce and wine (optional) and bring to a boil.
- Add fresh or thawed peas, chicken broth and season with salt and pepper.
- Cook over low to medium heat with the pot covered for about 40 minutes until the peas are soft.
- Stir the peas occasionally and check for flavor. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Add water if necessary for more liquid. If you want a thicker sauce, take the lid off towards the end to hasten thickening.
- Serve warm with feta and bread.
- Serve immediately (with feta and bread) and enjoy!