Seasonal Flavors: Fresh Peas and Dumplings


By Denise Zito

Some things in life must be done perfectly or not at all. If that means you only serve a particular dish once a year, when the ingredients are at their peak of flavor, then so be it.

Like Thomas Jefferson, I think there is nothing so sublime as a fresh English pea.  As you may know, Jefferson held a yearly contest to see which of his neighbors would produce the first bowl of peas. I’m not a fan of the edible pod pea that became so popular with U.S. gardeners in the seventies. I prefer the perfect English pea. And of course a bowl of perfect spring peas, served as a vegetable side dish is a delight.

This month I’m sharing a recipe that has been a mainstay at my house on that day in May when finally there is the bounty of peas, enough for an entire quart. I still hear from friends who were lucky enough to be visiting on the day there was a quart of fresh peas ready and this dish was served.  Please never tell me that you tried this with frozen peas. I would think it a horror!

Fresh Pea Soup with Butter Dumplings

The soup:

  • 1 quart of freshly shelled English peas
  • 4 ½ cups water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 4 ½ T. butter
  • 4 ½ T. flour 
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Gently boil the peas in the water, with the sugar for about 30 minutes, until the peas are quite soft.  Then either put the soup, cup by cup in the blender (be careful—hot soup in the blender requires great care) or use one of those handheld immersion blenders to completely emulsify the peas in the water.  Return the puree to the pan.  Season with salt and pepper and add the wine.

Melt the butter in a small skillet and stir in the flour.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Then add a cup of the warm soup and stir to blend.  Return the thickened soup to the pot and stir well.

The dumplings:

  • 6 T softened butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Using a wooden spoon, beat the eggs with the flour and then beat in the butter. Season with salt and nutmeg.  Drop by half teaspoons into the gently boiling soup.  Cook gently for about 5 minutes and serve.  Makes 6 first-course servings.