Many times I’ve walked down a frozen-foods aisle in a supermarket and wondered how it could be that somewhere on the planet there grew enough spinach and peas to fill and freeze endless bags and boxes. We never have enough spinach to freeze; what looks like a bale of greens cooks down into a couple of cups. Ditto peas: even though we have a 20-foot double row of them, our yield is scarcely enough to satisfy our desire for their fresh-from-the-pod sweetness. We were lucky to have two full months of eating asparagus before we let their fronds feather out to provide future nutrition for the plants, but we’ll be lucky to have peas, which were slow to arrive this year, for more that a few weeks. So we eke out the harvest, using them in a few recipes that, while they could be made with frozen peas, seem more delicious when we have them only once or twice a year, standards such as creamed new potatoes, baby onions and new peas, or risi e bisi. This season, because I got a late start, I still have non-bitter arugula in the garden, so I can combine it, along with an early onion, with the peas to make gnocchi with peas and hard-boiled eggs, a summery, vegetarian meal that is simple to prepare, if you disregard all the labor of picking and shelling that goes into harvesting the peas — a labor of love, of course.

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4 hard-boiled eggs
1 pound fresh or frozen gnocchi
112 cups fresh peas
1 bunch arugula, stems removed, cut into pieces
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup thinly sliced onion
13 cup heavy cream
34 cup Parmesan, grated, plus more for serving
First, a tutorial on preparing hard-boiled eggs. There is definitely more than one method that will result in an egg that is firm, yet has no yucky green rim around its yolk, but there is only one thing that will make your eggs peel evenly and that is using eggs that are less than fresh. When fresh, egg whites are low in pH and they bond to the inner shell membrane and the shell then sticks to the cooked egg. After an egg sits in the refrigerator for a week, its protective coat slowly wears off, the egg becomes porous, absorbs more air, and releases some of its carbon dioxide. This makes the albumen more acidic, causing it to stick to the inner membrane less. The egg white also shrinks slightly, so the air space between the eggshell and the membrane grows larger, resulting in boiled eggs that are easier to peel. To cook your appropriately aged eggs, cover them with cold water, bring them to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for two minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let the eggs sit in the hot water for about 10 minutes, a bit longer if the eggs are extra large. Remove the eggs from the water and run under cold water until they are easy to handle and then peel under cold running water.

For this recipe, once you’ve removed the eggs from the water, return the pot to the stove, add a pinch of salt and bring the water to a boil once again. Add gnocchi and cook until they float. Add peas, return to a boil, then stir in arugula. Drain, reserving 3⁄4 cup pasta water. Melt butter in pot over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until translucent, about three minutes. Add cream, cheese, and 14 cup reserved pasta water and simmer, stirring, one minute. Add gnocchi mixture; toss to combine, then simmer 30 seconds more. Add additional pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed to create a creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper and serve with halved eggs.

While hearty pea soup is a winter staple around here, made with the addition of root-cellared potatoes, onion and carrots and a ham bone or bacon bits if available, fresh summer pea soup is another animal altogether — light, bright green and delicious served hot or cold.

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2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 small or 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced (about 1 cup)
4 cups fresh peas (save pods for stock)
1 qt. pea pod or vegetable stock
12 fresh large basil leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sour cream or creme fraiche for serving.
Note: If you want to capture the flavor of the pea pods, put them into a large pot, cover them with cold water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and use as you would vegetable stock.

For the soup, heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat, add onion, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add peas and stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the whole basil leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Let the soup cool and then whiz in a blender until smooth. Cool in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Serve cold or reheated, garnished with a spoonful of sour cream or creme fraiche sprinkled with the finely sliced basil.