Chef Justine Piluso has just taken charge of the Les Petites Mains restaurant set up for spring and summer in the gardens of the Palais Galliera. Thibaut Vankemmel

The candidate for the legendary enthusiasm of Top Chef 2020 takes control of the ephemeral restaurant Les Petites Mains at the Palais Galliera in Paris. The opportunity to ask him for advice on cooking peas, his favorite spring vegetable.

The former candidate for the Top chef 2020 competition, Justine Piluso, has just taken charge of the restaurant Les Petites Mains installed for the spring and summer in the gardens of the Palais Galliera in Paris. This ephemeral place welcomes at each service, all week long, between 150 and 200 people and up to 300 on weekends. Not even afraid ! With her professionalism and her enthusiasm, Justine Piluso loses nothing of what makes the identity of her cuisine, i.e. a short menu, with fresh, seasonal dishes, which change regularly according to the products she selects from of its suppliers, most often in a short circuit.

Among her favorite spring vegetables, she immediately cites peas. “I grew up in Seine-Saint-Denis where there aren’t really any peas, but my mum regularly took me to a picking farm in Seine-et-Marne. In the spring, it was a real pleasure to pick up those little green pods that tumbled from the plants. When we got home, we shelled them and I liked to eat them raw, especially for their very pleasant slightly sweet taste. So I have a special affection for this vegetable,” recalls the chef. And to specify: “Fresh, they are exquisite. Unfortunately, they are often eaten canned, already cooked with carrots… And we miss out on this pleasure. At Les Petites Mains, as long as it is the season, I therefore make it a point of honor to cook them. At the moment, I’m serving them raw, in a salad, with asparagus, onions, a wild garlic pesto, a grapefruit gel – these are the last grapefruits so I’m going to evolve the salad with strawberries –, the very creamy burrata and a boxty, an Irish pancake made from mashed potatoes and filaments of raw potatoes, egg, yeast. This dough is then cooked and it gives a kind of very greedy pancake with a particular chew, both melting with a little crunch. A mouth-watering dish like Justine Piluso’s three express ideas for cooking peas.

Boxty, burrata, pea and asparagus salad: dish by Justine Piluso, on the Petites Mains menu Photo Thibaut Vankemmel

Salad of raw peas: fresh, crunchy and surprising

“When they are ultra-fresh, peas deserve to be eaten raw. They are crunchy and sweet. And in addition, they are full of minerals and vitamins which unfortunately disappear during cooking. We shell them, we mix them with colored radishes. Prepare a very mustard or lemony vinaigrette according to your tastes to season this salad and add fresh herbs such as mint, tarragon, dill. We put on this salad, a hard-boiled egg if we need energy, if we are very greedy or if, quite simply, we want to make a unique dish.

Grilled fish, peas, feta: the dish for sunny days

“When the peas are already a few days old, they are shelled and blanched for 35 to 45 seconds in very salty boiling water so that they retain their green color. They are then mixed quickly with finely chopped new onion, fresh herbs, crumbled feta, the zest of an organic lemon (or a little of its finely chopped skin), lemon juice. We pepper (but above all we do not salt). This side dish is served with grilled fish (seasonal and responsibly caught). It is a wonder !”

For Justine Piluso, very fresh peas are delicious raw, perfect for crunchy and vitaminized spring salads. Photo Bernhard Winkelmann / Madame Figaro. Directed by Michèle Carles and Karine Révillon. Bowl, (CFOC), placemat, (Fragonard).

Pea hummus: ideal dip for a sunny aperitif

“When you forget your peas in the fridge and they’re damaged, you don’t throw them away! We shell them. They are blanched for 3 to 4 minutes in salted boiling water. We put them in a blender with a spoonful of tahini, olive oil (if you want a less fatty hummus, you can use a little cooking water from the peas), fresh herbs, wild garlic, a peeled garlic clove stripped of its germ, salt, pepper, a pinch of Espelette pepper. Mix until you get a smooth texture. And we have an original and delicious hummus for the aperitif!”

Les Petites Mains, 14, avenue du President Wilson 75116 Paris, from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Little Hands in Paris

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