The Early Show's resident chef, Bobby Flay, celebrates the season with a delicious recipe using spring peas.
Green peas are at their peak in March, April and May, and then again in August through November. Look for unblemished, plump, bright green pods when buying fresh peas.
Although green peas are often thought of as a vegetable, they're actually legumes and a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as niacin and iron.
Flay serves his pea soup with Serrano ham. One of the secrets to the richly robust flavors of Spanish cuisine is pork, specifically cured ham, or jamón.
This air-cured ham is used in traditional tapas when thinly sliced, and is an exceptional addition to stews and sautéed vegetables. Prosciutto may be substituted for Serrano ham.
Jamón Serrano is one of the cornerstones of Spanish gastronomy. It's Spain's most outstanding meat product, not only because of its high levels of consumption and deep-rooted tradition, but because of its high quality.
The word "Serrano" in Spanish refers to the Sierra, or mountains. Jamón Serrano is traditionally produced in mountainous environments where the air is clean, the moisture levels just right, and the winters very cold. These are the traditional requirements for curing.
The process involves three distinct phases:
The fresh hams are first trimmed and cleaned, then stacked like cordwood and covered with salt. This serves to draw off excess moisture and to preserve the meat from spoiling.
That typically lasts two weeks. The salt is washed off and the ham is hung to dry, starting the first curing phase. Here, among other things, the fat begins to breakdown. This takes about six months.
Air drying comes next. It's during this phase that the hams are hung in a cool, dry place, and where the distinct, subtle flavors and aromas develop. This lasts from six to 18 months, depending on the climate, as well as the size and type of ham being cured. The drying sheds ("secaderos") are usually built at higher elevations, thus the name "Serrano."
Bobby's recipe follows