Oh Snap, That’s Healthy! Make Quinoa with Sugar Snap Peas and Mint

Sugar Snaps and Scapes

Last July I agreed to cater our friends’ film shoot in the Catskills. I would feed 18 people 3 meals a day for 4 days. I know, crazy. It was a ton of work, the meal and ingredient planning alone had me wondering what I had gotten myself into. Brad wouldn’t let me hear the end of the fact that my commitment was his too, as I would obviously need his help in the kitchen. So I shopped – half at the Park Slope Food Coop and half at Bradley Farm in New Paltz en route to the location, schlepped everything up there arriving late at night, unpacked and prepped what we could in anticipation of the days ahead.

It was a lot of work, but you know what? It was also a blast. Even Brad had a good time. And after the first lunch big lunch, during which the crew was surprised and appreciative to be served home-cooked, family style* food, we had motivation to carry on knowing we had an audience that was hungry for more.

*Why the asterisk? Well, I didn’t know any better, so when feeding so many people I planned meals that would consist of 5 or 6 dishes and put them all out on the big table to be served and eaten family style. They crew members wandered in a few at a time, eying the set-up and hesitantly sitting around the table. Apparently there is typically a buffet of food that is served in pecking order (director and DP first, and the lowly PA’s last), and then everyone goes off with their plates to eat where they wish. By the end of the weekend, the crew would all be hovering around the table waiting for the food to be served, politely waiting for everyone to join before digging in, and we had more and more offers to help set the table (which were partly excuses to peek in the kitchen and see what was cooking).

Starting our last dinner with so much beautiful produce and sausage (and sunflowers!)

And so the days and cooking went on. The food was good, the crew was well-fed and happy. And by the end of the long weekend everyone was sentimental and making toasts as we enjoyed out last meal together. I was flattered to learn that some people thought catering was my real job – one of the crew members even contacted me a few months later asking if I’d cater his birthday party. But the biggest surprise to me was that my food was described by many as “healthy”. I mean, I know we eat a lot of vegetables, and I didn’t serve any 4 cheese mac and cheese or too much bacon, but still. I just made menus of the dishes I usually cook, the crowd-friendly, sorta easy ones that I could manage to make 6 of, for 18 people, in the time between lunch and dinner.

Here is one of my standby “healthy” recipes. We eat this all summer, swapping the sugar snap peas for the next beans that will follow in season. Soon it will be fava beans, then lima beans and edamame, at some point in the summer the cranberry beans will arrive. Hard to pick a favorite as I love all the summer peas and shell beans. Use the herbs you like most or have on hand, and adjust the bean cooking time depending on which ones you’re using. It’s also great with fresh corn instead of beans. I have a feeling you’ll come back to this one as often as I do.

Sugar Snap Peas and Quinoa with Mint

Quinoa with Sugar Snap Peas and Mint

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 lb sugar snap peas
  • 3-4 garlic scapes – Cause I had ’em. They added a nice garlicy spice, but feel free to omit.
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 lemon, zestĀ  and juice
  • Handful of fresh mint, chopped – I also like cilantro and chives in this.
  • Salt and pepper

Rinse the quinoa and combine with water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. When the quinoa is cooked (about 15 minutes) remove from heat and let it rest covered. Meanwhile, set another saucepan of salted water to a boil. String the beans and slice into thirds (I like to cut them on the diagonal, because I’m fancy like that.) Slice the scapes into 1/4 inch pieces. When the salted water is boiling, cook the beans and scapes for 2-3 minutes until crisp tender, drain and rinse under cold water.

When the quinoa is ready, toss with the blanched beans and scapes, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, mint and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, or allow to rest and serve room temperature.

Get fancy, cut those sugar snaps on the diagonal!

I pair this most often with grilled chicken. If you’re wanting to make more of a menu, try starting with this curry squash soup (it’s great chilled as the weather heats up). A dollop of tart yogurt goes well on the side of all of this. The quinoa is dinner party friendly, as it tastes great prepared in advance and served room temperature. If you’ve got leftovers, serve it over some salad greens with the leftover grilled chicken sliced on top – or roll the quinoa and shredded chicken up in a wrap with a leaf of lettuce and a touch of plain yogurt.

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