Although their name suggests that they’re defined by sweetness, sugar snap peas are really about the crunch.
They aren’t any sweeter than regular peas. When you get good regular peas in season, they can be so sugary that it’s impossible not to eat them all right as you shell them, leaving nothing for dinner. (Produce tip: Always volunteer for pea-shelling duty. It’s a lot tastier than string bean trimming or asparagus snapping.)
The joy of sugar snap peas, on the other hand, is their juicy crispness, cut through with a sweetness that’s slightly herbal and a little earthy. Most of the sugar snaps I buy don’t even make it home; I nibble the majority straight from the bag, using the stems as leafy handles.
But every once in a while, I’ll buy enough to make a salad. Sometimes I slice them up and dress them raw, for maximum texture. But, in this more delicate recipe, I blanch them briefly, just long enough so they become tender without losing their bite.
When it comes to blanching sugar snaps, you should not, under any circumstances, breeze over having a bowl of ice water next to the stove. As soon as the peas turn bright green in the pot, immediately use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a freezing bath. Draining them in the sink and running cold water over them — my usual move for blanching vegetables — isn’t fast enough here, and they’re liable to get mushy.
Plus, if you heavily salt the ice water, you can season the peas through and through as they chill.
After cooling, make sure to dry them well with a clean kitchen towel before tossing them with the garlicky, lemony dressing. No one likes a damp pea salad.
Once dressed, the peas make the foundation of this salad. And if you mix in chopped herbs, scallions and other crisp vegetables like sliced fennel or radishes, you could call it a day. But since I was craving something salty and rich next to all those fresh vegetables, I paired them with a tart, creamy yogurt sauce with bits of crumbled feta swirled in.