130 Spring St.

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The collective term "field peas" sounds kind of drab, but they certainly have livened up the imaginations of Southern chefs in recent years. Restaurant menus, particularly those dedicated to the farm-to-table concept, soon will sport fresh peas in various dishes from salads to sides to entrees.

Home cooks in the "know" also will be looking for them at roadside markets.

Their varietal names are playful and intriguing, however: Lady, Pink-Eye, Zipper, Dixie Lee and White Acre, to name a few. The familiar "black-eyed" is among this family, too. None are technically peas, either, they're shelled beans. They most likely traveled to America from Africa during Colonial times.

All possess a certain earthiness, but they span from creamy and delicate to starchy and hearty, such as crowders. So it that affects how you use them.

Sharon Fratepietro recently asked for vegetarian recipes using field peas. She didn't specify a type, so we'll assume anything goes.

Nancy Huggins of Mount Pleasant gives a big thumbs up to a recipe in chef Marvin Woods' cookbook, "The New Low-Country Cooking: 125 Recipes for Coastal Southern Cooking with Innovative Style."

"They are so quick and delicious. I have used fresh field peas with this recipe, too."

Black-Eyed Peas

1 1/2 cups fresh black-eyed peas

2 celery ribs, cut in half lengthwise

1/2 onion, cut in half

1 carrot, cut in half

Salt to taste

Place all ingredients, except salt, in a large saucepan and add water to reach 1 inch above the peas. Cook over medium-low heat until the peas are tender (do not let them become too soft and mushy), about 1 hour. Remove the vegetables. Taste the peas and check the seasoning, adding salt if needed.

Michelle Wheaton of Harleyville writes, "I created this recipe for my 24-year-old vegetarian daughter who knows little about spices and has a very tight schedule.

"These burgers are great served on thin sandwich rounds like Deli Selects with a nice fruit salad. I like to make the entire recipe and store the leftovers in the refrigerator for a quick and easy meal. My husband is a meat eater and frowns on vegetarian dishes but he eats these burgers without bread straight from the fridge!"

Best-Ever Black Bean Burger

Serves 8

Butter or olive oil for sauteeing

1/2 cup diced red onion

2 (7-ounce) cans of sliced mushrooms or 1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms

1 tablespoon coriander

1 package of McCormick's Meatloaf Seasoning

2 (16-ounce) cans black beans or 2 cups cooked black beans

2 (16-ounce) cans field peas or black-eye peas or 2 cups cooked field peas

1 egg

Spray olive oil or Pam

4 cups whole-wheat flour or Panko bread crumbs

In a teaspoon or two of butter or olive oil, saute onion until soft. Add mushrooms, coriander, meatloaf seasoning and heat for 3 minutes and set aside.

In a large bowl combine black beans, field peas and egg and mix thoroughly. Add onion mixture to bean mixture and mix thoroughly. Spray the saute pan with a light amount of olive oil or Pam and heat pan.

On a large plate, pour 2 cups of whole-wheat flour or bread crumbs. Shape mixture into patties and place in flour, covering generously on both sides. Add additional flour or bread crumbs as needed. Add patties to heated pan and cook for 5 minutes or until desired brownness.

I was surprised I didn't hear from other home cooks, but then again, I think many don't try to get too fancy with field peas because they are so good on their own. But I did explore some other ideas for Sharon.

This recipe is found in the lovely 2008 cookbook by Martha Hall Foose, "Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales From a Southern Cook." In fact, a photograph of this dish graces the book's cover.

Lady Pea Salad

Serves 4

2 cups shelled Lady Peas or favorite fresh field peas (from about 1 1/2 pounds in the shell)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon finely diced celery

3 cups vegetable broth

Salt and ground white pepper

4 large ripe tomatoes

1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion

1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley

1 teaspoon finely chopped basil

2 teaspoons champagne vinegar

2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Soak the peas in cold water to cull any trash and remove floaters. Set the peas aside to drain in a sieve or colander.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.

Add the peas and 1/2 cup celery; stir to coat. Once the peas are thoroughly coated with butter, add the broth. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 15 minutes. Season the peas with salt and white pepper, and continue to simmer for 10 additional minutes, or until the peas are just tender. Drain well.

With a serrated knife, cut off the top third of each tomato. Working over a strainer set over a bowl, gently squeeze each tomato to remove the seeds, letting the juice drain into the bowl. Use the point of a small knife to cut open any bits that have seeds trapped. Discard the seeds. Scoop out the tomato flesh, being careful to keep the tomatoes in good shape for filling.

Dice the tomato flesh into small pieces and add to the tomato juice. Add the cooked peas, onion, remaining 1 tablespoon celery, the parsley, basil, vinegar and oil. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. (Refrigerate the tomato shells, too, if not serving right away.) When ready to serve, fill each tomato with the pea salad.

Another recipe from "Melissa's Great Book of Produce" sounds appealing. (If you eat meat and want a smoky taste, cook a little chopped bacon or ham along with the shallots, then add the garlic during the last 30 seconds of cooking.)

Warm Sugar Snap and Black-Eyed Pea Melange

4 servings

1/2 pound sugar snap peas

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 shallots, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups black-eyed peas (see cook's note)

2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in halves

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook's note: Black-eyed peas that are sold in the fresh produce section, packaged in sealed plastic bags or loose in plastic tubs) are preferred; these peas are presoaked and partially cooked.

Bring large saucepan with enough water to cover sugar snap peas to boil on high heat. Add sugar snap peas and cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until cooked tender-crisp. Drain and refresh with cold water. Remove strings, if needed. Cut in half crosswise on diagonal. Set aside.

In large, deep skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook until starting to soften, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic; cook 30 seconds. Add black-eyed peas and heat thoroughly, about 3 minutes. Stir in sugar snap peas and toss, cook about 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Add tomatoes and basil; gently toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

As for crowders, this recipe from Cooking Light gets high marks. To make it meatless, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

Crowder Pea Stew with Cornmeal Dumplings

Yield: 5 servings (serving size: about 1 cup stew and 3 dumplings)

For stew:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms

3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

2 cups fresh crowder peas

1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 bay leaf

3 1/2 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)

For dumplings:

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)

To prepare stew, heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion; cook 5 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Add celery, salt, and mushrooms; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add broth, peas, oregano, pepper and bay leaf; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 45 minutes or until peas are tender. Add tomatoes; return to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf.

To prepare dumplings, while stew is simmering, combine cornmeal and next 4 ingredients (cornmeal through sugar) in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in buttermilk, butter, and egg; let stand 10 minutes.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls into stew to form 15 dumplings. Cover and cook 15 minutes.

Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Who's got the recipe?

--A West Ashley reader asks for a biscuit recipe that makes softer, light and flaky ones instead of those that bake up like lead weights.

--There's also a request for a (don't heat up the kitchen) slow-cooker recipe for steak tips that does not use sour cream.

--A Charleston friend wants good dessert recipes that include both chocolate and peanut butter.

--A co-worker's brother was visiting and they went to brunch at Charleston Cafe, where he fell in love with the sweet potato biscuits. He tried to replicate them at home using a Paula Deen recipe and another recipe with maple butter, but neither had the same consistency, which he describes as "more muffin-like."

Looking for a recipe or have one to share? Reach Food Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886 or food@postandcourier.com.