Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Springtime Split Pea Soup

 Spring is finally here and I'm so excited to start cooking fresh green foods.  This soup is made with dried split peas, but it's a preview of the fresh  peas that will be growing in gardens  and popping up at farmers markets very soon. I remember when I was younger, my dad would make split pea soup a lot. He let the peas boil away until they turned into a smooth thick consistency...no blender required. He also made it the traditional way, with lots of ham to flavor it. I liked the soup like that at the time, but now, I could do without the ham. I'm also not too fond of the way the peas lose their bright green color after boiling them for over an hour. Their vibrancy disappears, they take on a grayish hue, and I can see why split pea soup normally doesn't go over well with too many people.
 This particular method of making split pea soup is quite different. Instead of waiting for the peas to break down in the pot (which takes well over an hour), the peas are cooked until they soften, but still retain their green color. It's then pureed in a blender to achieve the smooth consistency. It's also made without ham, but the smoked paprika sprinkled over the top definitely lends that smoky flavor reminiscent of ham. The lemon brightens it up and gives it a nice fresh flavor. It's also incredibly quick and easy with very few ingredients.

Split Pea Soup
(adapted from 101cookboks)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2  onions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups dried split peas, picked over to remove any stones
5 cups water or vegetable broth
juice of half a lemon
smoked paprika
olive oil to drizzle

In a soup pot, cook onions in olive oil and salt until they soften, about 5 minutes. Add the split peas and water or broth and bring to a boil. Let simmer about 25 minutes until the peas soften, but do not turn to mush. Add the soup to a blender, squeeze in the lemon juice, and puree until it's nice and smooth. Return to the pot and taste it for seasoning. You should add salt a little at a time (especially if you only used water instead of broth) in order achieve a flavorful soup. Salt does make a difference in a simple soup like this. Ladle into bowls and serve with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a few pinches of smoked paprika.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

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