Friday, July 13, 2012

A Pea in its Pod

While at a farm picking pie cherries a few weekends ago, we also bought freshly picked English peas from their store.  I've never cooked with fresh peas before, so I was excited about my find.

Later that evening, while the hot sun slowly set and the air started to cool off, we shelled peas for a creamy pea and leek soup for dinner.  The rhythmic pattern of "unzipping" the pod and scraping out the peas was relaxing after being out in the sun picking cherries and currants earlier that day.

Peas are not an ingredient I use all that often - usually a bag of frozen peas will sit in my freezer for years, being thawed and then refrozen over and over as it serves its purpose of the occasionally-needed ice pack, after which, I deem it inedible.

I'll toss peas into chicken pot pie, and occasionally a pasta dish, but that's about it.  I do like their creamy, sweet quality, though, and thought that they might make a really light, vegetarian summer soup that wouldn't be too heavy for hot weather.  I also had a container of homemade vegetable stock in the freezer that I'd made from corn cobs, onions and thyme, and I knew this would be the perfect soup for the stock.

A smooth and creamy soup needs the contrast of something crunchy (so that you don't feel like you're eating baby food), so I thinly sliced zucchini, squash and radish, then baked the slices until golden and crispy.  Sprinkled on top of the soup (along with a few pieces of crispy bacon), the vegetable chips added just the right crunchy contrast.

And it's a great way to get an extra serving of vegetables, but with the satisfying salty crunch of a chip!

Creamy Pea and Leek Soup
printable recipe
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced into rings and washed (white and tender green parts only)
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine (optional)
  • 2 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4-6 cups low-sodium, fat free vegetable stock
  • 2 cups peas (I used freshly shelled peas, but frozen will work, too)
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • coarse salt and cracked pepper
  • bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • crispy, baked vegetable chips (recipe below)
  • low-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream

In a large stock pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and butter.  Add the leek and onion and a little salt and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes until garlic starts to brown.  Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the potatoes and 4 cups of vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil, then cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.  Add the peas and continue to cook until the potatoes are very tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender (or transferring the mixture to your blender in batches) puree until completely smooth.  Stir in the lemon zest and juice and the Parmesan cheese.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  If mixture is too thick, add more broth; if too thin, simmer for 30 minutes until it reduces to your desired thickness.

The soup can be served hot right away, or cooked in advance to be served chilled the next day, although I preferred it hot.  Top with bacon crumbles, crispy vegetable chips and a drizzle of Greek yogurt or sour cream.

Yields about 6 servings.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Crispy Baked Vegetable Chips
printable recipe
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • olive oil spray
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 F.  Line 4 baking sheets with foil and spray the foil with olive oil spray.

Wash and dry the vegetables.  Using a mandolin (a must) slice the vegetables very thin (about 1/16 of an inch thick).  Place vegetables in a single layer on the baking sheets (they take up a lot of room while raw, but will shrink much smaller as they cook).  Spray the vegetable slices with olive oil spray then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the pans in the oven and bake for about 2 hours until medium golden brown and crisp.  If your oven bakes unevenly, as mine does, you will need to watch the vegetables carefully, checking them every 20 minutes or so to rotate the pans and remove the chips that brown more quickly.

Transfer the browned chips to a baking sheet lined with a paper towel to cool for a few minutes before eating.  They are delicious on their own, or sprinkled on top of soup or salad.

These are best eaten within a few hours of baking.  The following day, they will be chewy, not crispy.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen