Lunch at Ottolenghi was by far the most memorable meal Ali and I had in London (and it probably would have taken the title of most memorable moment had we not gotten lost in the heath for the better part of an hour on the way to dinner one night). Anyway, the thanks goes to our server, who pretty much demanded I order the pea/butter bean mash when I explained how I was trying to decide between six of the salad options.
To his eternal credit, the poppy cabbage slaw he also recommended was brilliant, but the butter bean mash was what haunted me for the rest of the trip. The creamy, starchy puree– shot through with fresh herbs and enriched with tangy goat cheese–probably would have gotten out of hand after a few bites if it weren’t for the slivers of bright, pickled cucumber nestled like little crunchy surprises amid the puree. It, like all Ottolenghi dishes I’ve tried, was just more delicious and surprising than I thought vegetables were allowed to be. So thank you, server man with your mini ponytail and skinny jeans, wherever you are.
I had envisioned the “green pea” part of the dish to mean the deep green pods that I’ve only ever bought from the freezer section. But, upon researching how to make mushy peas, I found that traditional mushy peas are actually made out of what Americans call split peas, rather than those freezer peas. Which actually made a lot more sense, considering how creamy and light-colored the mash was, absent of dark green pea skins.
So this dish that you can create at home: I like to think of it as mashed potatoes for summer. It’s far too hot to be boiling and mashing hot, starchy vegetables, but I can handle sticking things in a food processor. Like potatoes, this would be great alongside some protein (perhaps grilled tempeh or marinated tofu). On the other hand, you could also treat this slightly tangy spread like avocado–I definitely ate it non-stop on top of toast.
On a completely different note, I always forget how much I love the 4th of July. Seeing as summer is my favorite season, it follows that the 4th would be my favorite holiday. But that fact didn’t quite register until this past weekend, when I realized that even when I wasn’t back home doing my family’s traditional doughnut + parade + pool + BBQ thing, the 4th is still the most fun.
I cooked nothing except ice cream sandwiches and it was glorious. I spent the 4th (and 5th and 6th) with lots of fun people coming up with ingenious ideas in the pool, picking blueberries, smashing cups, and throwing a good-bye dinner featuring pad thai for a precious friend. How did you spend your holiday weekend?
- For the pickled cucumber:
- ½ large cucumber, sliced into rounds, then cut into quarters
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar (or pretty much any white vinegar)
- ½ cup hot water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- For the mash:
- ½ cup split peas (or ¾ cup cooked)
- 1 15.5-ounce can butter beans, drained
- ½ cup goat cheese, divided
- ½ cup parsley, loosely packed
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- ½ cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped (optional)
For the pickled cucumber: Combine all ingredients in a container. Cover and let sit for at least an hour. Refrigerate before using.
For the mash: Bring the split peas to a boil in a pot with 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt. Simmer for about 30-40 minutes, covered, until split peas are soft, adding more water if necessary. You will end up with a little extra.
Add 3/4 cup cooked split peas, butter beans, 1/4 cup goat cheese, parsley, oil, salt and pepper to a food processor or high-powered blender. Blend until the mixture is semi-smooth, with a bit of roughness, or to desired consistency. Add additional oil or water to loosen the mixture if needed.
Crumble in the additional 1/4 cup goat cheese and fold it into the mixture along with the almonds, if using.