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Ham + Spring Pea Pastry Squares

20th March 2014

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Growing up in Texas, the best sign of spring was wildflowers. The highways would light up in blue, red, pink, and yellow and everyone would drive a little slower on back country roads because it was bluebonnet picture time. Whether you snapped a picture from your car window or lugged the whole family out to pose and smile in the state flower, these simple little blooms were a happy sign that warm – but not too warm mind you – weather was on its way. The unique thing about bluebonnets is that they need the cold frosty weather of the end of winter to help snap open their seeds, letting out little sprouts and eventually beautiful blooms. Up here in New England, there is no such sign of spring. Don’t get me wrong, the state is beautiful and runs wild with summertime daffodils, the greenest greens you’ve ever seen, and hydrangeas of every color. But till the warm weather really sets in (which is at least another month from now) I look for signs of spring at the farm stand.

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After months of winter – a time when the South is often still in the growing process – New England springs to life with every kind of edible green you can imagine. It’s slow at first: some late cold-weather collards here, thin asparagus the next week, maybe some local root vegetables. But one of the first things to come to market is fresh spring peas. Not as big or bright as the later summery varieties, but soft and sweet and the perfect introduction to springtime.

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These Ham and Spring Pea Pastry Squares combine sweet and savory, creamy and crunchy all in one. Reminiscent of cheesy ham and pea pastas you ate as a kid, these simple pastry squares are multi-generational friendly and take only a few minutes to whip up.

Ham + Spring Pea Pastry Squares
makes 9 pastries

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 egg (for egg wash)
1 heaping cup fresh ricotta, room temperature
salt and pepper
9 slices ham, sliced thin
1 cup fresh peas, shelled

1. Set the oven to 350 degrees. Line or grease a baking sheet.

2. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the puff pastry into 9 even-sized squares. Transfer to baking sheet and dock each square with a fork. Place in oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until puffy and just cooked through. Remove the squares, set the oven’s broiler to low, and set an oven rack on the top notch or about 4 inches away from the broiler.

3. While the squares are baking, whisk an egg for the egg wash.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk the fresh ricotta with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Using a pastry brush or single-purpose paintbrush, lightly coat each pastry square with the egg wash.

6. To assemble, place about 2 tablespoons of the seasoned ricotta into the middle of each pastry square, using the back of the spoon to slightly indent the pastry. Top the ricotta with a slice of ham (or half a slice if the ham is big). Return the baking sheet to the oven and broil until golden brown and the ham is slightly crisped on the edges. Top each pastry with a handful of peas and serve warm.

Notes:
– The great thing about fresh spring peas, you can also eat the shells! So serve those with the pastry if you like them.
– The other great thing about fresh spring peas is that you can eat them raw which is how I served them in this recipe. The heat of the pastry helps heat them just enough, but if you like your peas a little more cooked, throw them into a pot of boiling water for no more than 2 minutes, drain, and then rinse under cold water to preserve their color. You could also steam them.
– Most sliced hams contain a fair amount of salt, so taste before you add extra salt to the ricotta.
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Happy Spring, y’all.