Here’s a spring lover’s grain dish: An aromatic pilaf topped with two types of peas

Joe Yonan

THE WASHINGTON POST – I judge my spring garden by two metrics – how well I treated my peas and how well they’re treating me. Did I plant them at the right time – as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring? Did I keep enough of the birds and squirrels away to prevent the pilfering of those pea seeds before they had a chance to sprout and grow? And did I give them a trellis to climb as soon as their shoots were stretching their limbs in search of one?

This year, with so much more time at home – and needing gardening’s therapeutic qualities more than ever – I could answer yes to all of the above. But the one thing I’ve never been good at is succession planting, the artful spacing out of sowing that leads, theoretically at least, to an artful spacing out of harvesting.

You know where this is going: My peas did so well that they soon started dripping from the plants, seemingly all at the same time. This year, I’m growing sugar snap peas rather than English peas, because I want to be able to consume the pods, too, and because they are one of the vegetables that truly sold my husband on the glories of fresh-from-the-vine eating.

Most weekdays, I make us a big salad for lunch, mostly from the garden: lettuces and other greens, carrots, broccoli and now those sugar snaps. But at this rate, I can’t quite keep up with them, and we feel a little like Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory, so I went looking for recipes that would use them differently. I settled on a pilaf from chef Floyd Cardoz, who died this spring of complications from covid-19. In his 2016 cookbook, Flavorwalla, Cardoz described a familiar situation, “I wanted to create a showcase for a lot of peas: a pressing issue, since they were pouring out of my garden faster than I could cook them.” He uses English peas and sugar snaps, pureeing some and stirring them into an aromatic bulgur pilaf and sauteing the rest with butter and mint to pile on top.


Bulgur Pilaf With Spring Peas. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Active: 25 minutes | Total: 50 minutes

Four to six servings

Vibrant spring peas in two forms add texture, colour and nutrition to this grain dish. Bulgur – parboiled cracked wheat – is a great warm-weather option, because it cooks by absorbing the hot broth while off the heat.


One tablespoon canola or other neutral oil

Half teaspoon cumin seeds

Two whole cloves

One cinnamon stick

One bay leaf

Half medium yellow onion, finely chopped

One tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

One jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

Two cups medium-grind bulgur

Two cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought vegetable stock

One teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste

Two tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

Four and a half cups fresh or frozen peas

Two cups sugar snap peas, strings removed

One cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves

Quarter teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste


In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the cumin, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf and cook, stirring and shaking the pan, until fragrant, two to three minutes. Add the onion, ginger and jalapeño and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, two to three minutes.

Stir in the bulgur and cook, stirring occasionally, until it darkens slightly, two to three minutes. Stir in the broth and half teaspoon salt, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let the pilaf stand until all the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, combine one tablespoon butter and two cups of the peas and cook, stirring frequently, until the peas are very soft, four to five minutes. Transfer to a bowl and mash well with a fork. When the pilaf is ready, discard the cloves, cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Stir in the reserved mashed peas and gently warm over low heat.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining one tablespoon of butter. When it melts, stir in the sugar snap peas. Cook, stirring frequently, until the snap peas are crisp-tender, four to five minutes. Add the remaining two and a half cups of peas, along with the mint, the remaining half teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Cook until just heated through. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper if needed.

To serve, spoon the pilaf into shallow bowls and spoon the snap pea mixture over the top. Serve hot.

Nutrition | Calories: 339; Total Fat: 7g; Saturated Fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 10mg; Sodium: 308mg; Carbohydrates: 56g; Dietary Fibre: 16g; Sugars: 8g; Protein: 13g.