When you’re looking to get lean, exercise is only half the equation. You can do all the crunches in the world, but the foods you eat are every bit as important. As part of our Cook to Get Cut series, we’ll show you how to use some of the healthiest eats to sculpt your physique without sacrificing flavor.
No matter what type of meal you’re making, peas always add a burst of sweet, fresh flavor. Because these green veggies are such a staple, most of us stick with stirring some into a casserole or serving them as a stand-alone side every time. This isn’t a bad way to go, particularly when you consider a ½-cup serving contains 67 calories, more than 4 grams of fiber, and plenty of other nutrients. Still, they can be even more delicious if you give them a chance. Try these five recipes to see what you’ve been missing.
1. Pea and Goat Cheese Omelet
Whether you’re looking for a protein-packed breakfast or a dinner you can pull of in an instant, think omelets. We particularly like this pea and goat cheese version from Fine Cooking. It makes the process super simple by cooking one large omelet instead of individual ones, so you can quickly have a meal for two or simply save the extra serving for breakfast the next day.
Though spinach and other greens usually come to mind first as a way to add nutrition to egg dishes, peas work just as well. If heart health is a concern, they might actually be the better choice. According to research published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, cooked peas are among the vegetables most significantly linked to lower blood pressure.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- ⅔ cup shelled fresh peas or frozen, thawed peas
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 ounce fresh goat cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice
Directions: Melt butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 1 minute. Add peas and lemon zest. Continue to cook, stirring, until peas are just tender, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then remove to a bowl.
Wipe skillet clean, then set over medium-low heat. Lightly beat eggs with milk, a pinch of salt, and a bit of pepper, then add to skillet. Cover and cook until beginning to set, about 4 minutes. Crumble cheese over top, cover, and cook to heat through, about 1 minute.
Gently slide omelet onto a large plate. Pour peas over one half, then top with parsley. Drizzle with oil and lemon juice. Fold in half, cut, and serve.
2. Fresh Pea Hummus
We’ve already shared our adoration for guacamole made with peas, so it’s time to consider other dips. It turns out the veggie does just as well when whipped into a creamy hummus. Try it in your kitchen with this super speedy recipe from Martha Stewart’s Whole Living. Serve it with some crackers and raw vegetables, or use the hummus as a sandwich spread.
Because this recipe can be made with fresh or frozen peas, you can whip up a batch any time you want. And don’t fret over lost nutrition from using stuff from the freezer. One study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported, with the exception of beta-carotene, most nutrients are well-preserved in frozen fruits and vegetables.
- 1 cup fresh shelled peas
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
Directions: Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook just until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, then run under cold water to cool.
Combine peas, cilantro, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and cumin in a food processor. Season with salt and pulse to combine, about 30 to 40 seconds. Serve.
3. Green Pea Salad with Bacon and Almonds
Anyone with Midwestern roots is well familiar with salads that contain roughly equal parts veggies and mayonnaise. In the case of pea salad, recipes usually call for generous helpings of bacon and cheese as well. Turn the classic side into something much lighter with this healthier twist from Well Plated by Erin. Greek yogurt is the secret ingredient, giving the dressing a luxurious texture without weighing it down.
- 3 bacon slices
- ½ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 16 ounces shelled petite fresh peas or frozen, thawed peas
- ¼ cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
- ½ small red onion, finely chopped
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then arrange bacon on top. Transfer to oven and bake until fully cooked and crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and let drain on paper towels. Chop into small pieces.
In a large bowl, combine yogurt, honey, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine, then add peas, almonds, and red onion. Toss to coat and serve garnished with bacon.
4. Easy Chicken Curry with Peas
Most of us are more concerned with getting food on the table fast than building layers of flavor on weeknights, which means a lot of meals wind up tasting bland. If you make this simple curry from chef Cat Cora, you can seriously boost flavor without losing the quick-cooking mindset. All you need is some rice to round out the meal.
Nutrition experts urge Americans to boost fiber content by reaching for more produce and whole grains. If you know you’re among those who aren’t getting enough of the nutrient, peas are a standout choice. According to Mayo Clinic, they’re one of the most fiber-rich vegetables.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons curry powder
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more
- 1 red bell pepper, diced small
- 1 garlic clove, crushed or minced
- 2 medium red onions, cut into ¼-inch-thick rings
- 1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
- ¼ cup water, plus more
- 2 cups fresh or frozen, thawed peas
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Directions: Season chicken with salt, pepper, and curry powder. Cover and let refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.
Heat oil in a large skillet set over high heat. Add half of chicken and half of peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is lightly browned on all sides. Remove to a plate. Add more oil, if needed, then cook remaining chicken and pepper. Transfer to same plate.
Add another drizzle of oil to the pan, if needed, then add garlic and onions. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add chicken and peppers back to pan along with any accumulated juices. Add coconut milk and water. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. If sauce becomes too thick, add more water, ¼ cup at a time.
When chicken is tender, add peas, scallions, and cilantro. Stir to combine, then serve.
5. Garlic Shrimp with Peas
If you like shrimp scampi, you’ll love this pea-flecked shellfish dish from The New York Times. It’s decently quick as written, but feel free to speed things up even more by using purchased seafood stock instead of making your own. The recipe suggests serving with rice, but we think a good loaf of crusty bread is even better.
As if phenomenal taste weren’t enough reason to make this shrimp dish tonight, you might be happy to hear peas could help in the fight against cancer. In one 2009 study, researchers reported consuming a polyphenol called coumestrol, which is abundant in peas, may help reduce the risk of gastric cancer. More research is needed, but getting a serving of peas here and there certainly won’t hurt.
- 1½ pounds medium shrimp with shells, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
- 1½ pounds fresh English peas, shelled
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 head green garlic or 6 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon red chile flakes
- ⅓ cup finely chopped cilantro
- ⅓ cup finely chopped parsley
- Cooked rice
Directions: Place shrimp shells in a medium saucepan, cover with 1 quart of water, and season with salt. Bring to a boil, skim foam from surface, reduce to a simmer, and let cook, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Strain broth into a bowl, discard shells, then return broth to same pan.
Meanwhile, season shrimp with salt. Toss and let sit for 15 minutes.
Return broth to a boil and add peas. Boil for 2 minutes, just until they begin to wrinkle. Remove peas with a slotted spoon and reserve. Measure out ½ cup broth and reserve.
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chile flakes. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Increase heat to medium high and add shrimp. Cook, stirring, until shrimp turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add peas, cilantro, and parsley. Continue to toss for about 1 minute. Stir in reserved broth and let heat through. Remove from heat, season to taste, and serve.
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