Green pea soup

(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)
June 24, 2009

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Serves 4

In late June, when shelling peas debut for a few weeks, grab as many as you can. They depart as quickly as they arrive. Shucking them as you watch a movie makes it less a chore and more like therapy. Pluck them from their pods by running your finger like a zipper down the open pod and tipping the peas into a bowl. Eat them straight or cook them simply so their flavors pop in your mouth. This easy soup begins with a light broth made from the scraps of a leek simmered with celery, bay leaf, and peppercorns. The lighter end of the leek is sauteed in oil and then cooked gently with the fresh peas and broth. A quick buzz in the blender and the soup is done. Garnish bowls with a few cooked peas, basil or mint, and a spoonful of cream. Serve the soup warm or cold. Before buying peas, sample one from a pod. If it tastes starchy instead of sweet, the peas are past their prime. You either have to wait until next year or move south.

1 leek, split lengthwise and rinsed well
5 cups water
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 bay leaf
6 whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 pounds green shelling peas in the pod (to yield about 3 3/4 cups peas)
6 basil or mint leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup creme fraiche (for garnish, optional)

1. Separate the dark green parts of the leek from the white and light green parts. Roughly chop the dark green parts and finely chop the white and light green parts.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the dark green leeks with the water, celery, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.

3. Strain and keep the broth warm. (You should have about 3 1/2 cups.)

4. Wipe out the saucepan. Add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the white and light green leeks and salt. Cook, stirring often, for 4 minutes or until softened.

5. Add the peas and stir to coat with oil. Add 2 cups of the warm broth, bring to a boil, and simmer for 3 minutes.

6. With a slotted spoon remove 1/4 cup of the peas; set them aside.

7. In a blender, puree the soup until very smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan. Heat it, adding more of the remaining broth until the soup is the consistency you like. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir the reserved whole peas into the soup.

8. Add a few basil or mint slices in each of 4 soup bowls, ladle in the soup, and, if you like, top with a dollop of creme fraiche.

Jill Santopietro