Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Split Pea Soup: A new taste of home
My friend Hank is continually appalled by my revelations about common food items/dishes that I have never eaten. He shakes his head when I tell him I've never forked my way through a slice of Key Lime pie, feigns disgust when I tell him I am scared to try cottage cheese, and nearly disowns me as a friend when I tell him I've never eaten a cheeseburger. For someone who loves food and eating as much as I do, it is seemingly incomprehensible to him that I can be missing these and other pivotal experiences from my dining repertoire.
In recent years, I have made an effort to fill in those gaps, and a few months ago, bought my first bowl of split pea soup at Whole Foods. As a child, I turned my nose up at the disturbingly green soup because my mother always acted disgusted when my dad made it for himself. Up until my first spoonful of the chunky pea-speckled concoction this past November, I always associated the soup with her negative reaction to it. I trust my mother fairly implicitly with matters of food and drink, so was shocked to discover that it is actually really good.
After that first bowl, however, I forgot all about the soup until this past Friday when I stumbled upon an image of it on a food blog that I, unfortunately, cannot remember at the moment. With the weather in LA reaching down to temperatures that do not bode well for my thin skin, I impetuously decided to make it for lunch the following day. I already had potato, celery, carrots, and onion in my fridge at home -- all I needed were some split peas from the bulk bins at Whole Foods and I was in business.
Once I'd collected my split peas, I turned my attention to finding a recipe -- an effort that was not exactly successful. I didn't want ham hock or bacon or other things that would defile the healthy nature of the soup or distract from the flavor of the peas. I wanted my first attempt at the dish to be pure in nature -- not a vehicle for the unnecessary ingestion of pork fat. As such, I decided to be the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl that I never am and just wing it.
Paired with a Parmesan crisp, the resulting soup was the perfect way to warm up my perpetually goose-bumped arms on Saturday afternoon. It was exactly what I was craving -- a taste of comfort, a taste of early spring, and a taste of home (even if that home didn't serve me the soup as a child).
Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
Makes 1 entree sized portion (approximately 2 cups)
Total Cooking Time: Approximately 1 hour
1/3 cup split peas, rinsed and picked over
1/3 cup white onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup carrots, chopped
1/3 cup white rose potato, peeled and chopped
2 cups chicken broth (I used 1 cup water + 2 teaspoons Better than Boullioun chicken base)
Pepper to taste
Saute onions, garlic, celery, carrots in olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat until onion is just becoming tender. Add chicken broth, split peas and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature, add pepper to taste, and simmer, covered, for approximately 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
After 20 minutes, add the chopped potato and continue simmering (partially covered) and occasionally stirring for another 25 minutes or until peas are tender. Remove approximately 3/4 cup of soup (try to get the chunky carrot bits) and set aside. Puree the remaining soup using an immersion blender or blender. Mix the chunky portion back with the pureed portion and bring back to desired serving temperature. Serve with a Parmesan crisp.