My husband and I had a discussion over avocado toast when we were back in Boston recently to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our very first date there. Drinks at The Last Hurrah bar in the Parker House Hotel, followed by dinner in the North End and a romantic stroll to see the USS Constitution in the harbor in Charlestown. As he breakfasted the following morning on a mediocre sesame bagel with a shmear of plain cream cheese, Andy looked at my pretty plate and posed a tough question, “How can avocados be a sustainable ingredient if you’re eating them in New England? Aren’t they all trucked in from California and Mexico?”

I didn’t let the conversation ruin my meal. This avocado toast was, after all, a particular good one. It was served on a thick piece of seven-grain bread and topped with chopped kale, halved cherry tomatoes, pink peppercorns and crunchy, turmeric-dusted chickpeas. But since then, I’ve thought quite a bit about the point he was making. My answer to his sustainability challenge weighed against my love of avocado toast is grounded in fresh garden peas.

I won’t make the same mistake food editors at The New York Times did back in 2015, when they tweeted about a guacamole-ish recipe venerated French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten was serving a few years earlier at his Mexican-inspired ABC Cocina in New York City. That one called for adding a portion of fresh peas to an otherwise traditional mix of avocados, jalapeños, cilantro, scallions and lime. Both the Texas Republican party (“The @nytimes declared war on Texas when they suggested adding green peas to guacamole”) and President Barak Obama (“respect the nyt, but not buying peas in guac. onions, garlic, hot peppers. classic.”) tweeted bipartisan opposition to the addition.

No, people, I’m calling for a wholesale replacement of the avocados with Maine peas! It’s not guacamole, though. Let’s call it “spicy pea mash.” No, Anglophile love of my life, my mash is nothing like British mushy peas popular in the northern England and the Midlands! I stand firm in my loathing of that side dish attempt to make a pile of fish and chips appear to be a well-rounded meal. Those are marrowfat peas – mature peas that are left out in the field to dry – that get soaked overnight, sweetened with sugar, simmered and then artificially colored into a bright green pap.

After shucking the fresh peas, blanch them in boiling water. You’re on your way to Pea Mash. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

My mash starts with a pile of succulent and naturally sweet fresh shell peas. I’ve taken to buying multiple pounds at the farmers market and shucking them during Zoom meetings. I blanch the peas in salted, boiling water (just about 90 seconds) until they turn a bright green and lock in that vibrant color by immediately transferring them from the pot to a bowl of ice water. Well-drained, these peas will keep in a glass jar in the refrigerator for five days.

From there, making the mash is simple. Into a blender, pour 1 cup of peas, 1 tablespoon each olive oil and lemon or lime juice, a teaspoon of hot sauce, a half teaspoon each of kosher salt and lemon or lime zest, and a clove of garlic. You process that into smooth paste, drop in another 1/2 cup of peas into the blender and pulse the mixture so the additional peas break down just a bit.


Spicy Pea Mash with pita chips Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

That’s the basic pea mash. From there you can spice it up as you like. I’ve added a teaspoon of Gryffon Ridge Spice Merchant’s ras el hanout to make a Middle Eastern ersatz avocado toast topped with cherry tomatoes, sliced red onion and sumac. I’ve also stirred in the Litchfield-based company’s Senor Pistole’s Mild Chili Seasoning to make a dip that goes very well with corn chips. And I’ve added a 1/2 cup each of fresh parsley and local ricotta cheese to make a creamy, a no-cook sauce for pasta on hot summer nights. The only limitation on making pea mash is how much time you have on your hands to shuck the fresh peas in the first place. If you’re short on time, thaw out a bag of frozen peas. They’ll work just fine.

Local foods advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is the editor of Edible Maine magazine and author of “Green Plate Special,” both a column about eating sustainably in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her 2017 cookbook. She can be contacted at:

Pea Mash, Parsley, Lemon and Ricotta Pasta Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Pea Mash, Parsley, Lemon and Ricotta Pasta

In the Liguria region of Italy, cooks often add potatoes to a dish of pasta dressed with basil pesto sauce. I’ve copied that addition here. The recipe also calls for a little more garlic and lemon juice than the basic pea mash, as the mild ricotta cheese needs the extra flavor boost.

Serves 4

1 pound gemelli pasta
2 small red potatoes, cut into ¼-inch thick matchsticks
1 ½ cups blanched and shocked peas
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup packed parsley leaves
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Black pepper
Grated cheese for serving


Fill a large pot with water, add a tablespoon salt and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to instructions for al dente on the package. Five minutes before the pasta is done, add the potatoes to the pot.

Combine peas, lemon zest and juice, parsley, ricotta, garlic, olive oil and hot sauce in a blender and process it into a smooth, creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain the pasta and potatoes. Combine the pasta, potatoes and sauce in a large bowl. Add the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce to coat the pasta as necessary.

Serve hot with grated cheese.

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