There is nothing quite as sweet, vibrant and indicative of spring as the first English peas. The bright green pearls pop in your mouth and are so good that you can eat them raw by the handful. In this Goodtaste original recipe, we use grilled country bread and creamy mild ricotta as the bed for a simply-dressed pea salad. If you have early season peas, you might not have to blanch them as instructed in this recipe. However, as peas get starchier towards summer, it helps to cook them briefly in boiling water for a softer bite and to intensify their color. If you’re lucky enough to have your own peas growing in your garden, snip a few of the tender pea shoots for garnish. Otherwise, you can use a delicate green like watercress or a flourish of fresh green herbs as we do here. Serve these toasts during cocktail hour, alongside homemade soup for a light dinner, or topped with an olive oil-fried egg for brunch. This is spring cooking at its finest.
In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta with the heavy cream and lemon zest. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Pro-tip: For silky-smooth ricotta, pulse it in a food processor with the heavy cream and lemon zest; refrigerate.)
Prepare an ice bath. In a medium pot of salted boiling water, blanch the peas until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to the ice bath to cool. Drain the peas and pat dry with paper towels.
Preheat a grill or grill pan. Brush the sliced bread on both sides with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and grill over moderately-high heat until nicely charred, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Rub the grilled bread with the garlic clove. Alternatively, you can toast the bread under the broiler in your oven.
In a medium bowl, toss the peas with the shallot, lemon juice and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with kosher salt and pepper.
Smear the ricotta on the toasts and top with the pea salad. Garnish with torn herbs, more lemon zest and pea shoots, if using. Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Serve right away.
NOTE If you cannot find fresh English peas, then thawed frozen peas are an adequate substitute. Follow the recipe as written.
MAKE AHEAD The lemony ricotta can be made up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated overnight.