I first experienced fire-roasted sugar snap peas at Tar & Roses in Santa Monica. The next time was at The Dabney restaurant in Washington, D.C., where chef Jeremiah Langhorne placed the grill basket directly on the embers. On a recent trip to Chicago, I enjoyed them at the trendy Bad Hunter and El Che Bar, and they were so crusty and smoky-sweet, I vowed the next time would be on my own grill. You can char any small green vegetable, from snow peas to green beans to fiddlehead ferns, in a grill basket in the embers. The optional jalapeño pepper reinforces the heat.
Step 1: Set up your grill for caveman grilling. Let the coals burn down to glowing embers.
Step 2: String the peas by breaking the tip off the stem end and pulling the string away from the inside curve of the pea. Place in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the mint, jalapeño (if using), olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a grill basket.
Step 3: When ready to cook, rake the coals into an even layer, using a grill hoe or garden hoe. Fan with a folded newspaper to disperse any loose ash. Lay the grill basket with the peas directly on the embers. Grill the peas, stirring occasionally with tongs, until browned and charred in places, about 5 minutes. (A few burnt spots add flavor.) Transfer the peas to a platter and serve.
When shopping: Sugar snap peas (sometimes called snap peas) are a small pea variety you eat pod and all. Look for smaller sugar snaps—organic if possible.
Sure, you can roast large vegetables, like beets and cabbage, in the embers. But what about small vegetables, like snap peas, snow peas, or green beans? The answer is simple: Grill them in a wire mesh grill basket positioned directly on the embers. You get a surface charring and resulting flavor that’s different from conventional grilling. Shake the basket a few times (or stir with long-handled tongs) so all the peas roast evenly. If you own a gas grill, try charring them on a plancha.