Photo: ©2011 Sally Vargas
Classic Fresh Pea Soup
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST SALLY VARGAS
Swimming holes, screened porches, jigsaw puzzles, rocking chairs, pies on the windowsill: these are the old-fashioned icons of summer. Shelling peas is a pastime about as contemporary as darning socks, but it is finally summer!
I say, give in to the nostalgia.
Grab a chair and sit on a screened porch, or on the back steps in the shade. If you are alone, you can give yourself the gift of a pea meditation. Listen to the friendly pop of the tip of the pod as you squeeze it open to extract the treasures inside, neatly lined up. Those perfect peas are a wonder of nature! The vague velvety down on the surface of the shells, not quite peach fuzz, sticks to your fingers a little. You will notice the plop, plop, plop of each pea as it drops into the bowl on your lap.
Now three pounds of peas can take a while to work through. If you have a companion, you can dish and shuck and indulge in another type of experience. It will go faster, but the point is, don’t be in a hurry. It is summer. Is there a better time for slowing down?
English peas are essentially the garden variety of plump, deep green pods that must be shelled; the pods are tough and stringy, not good for eating. However, they can be used to make pea stock, particularly nice for this soup. Place the empty pea pods in a pot with some chopped tough, green scallion ends and a handful of parsley. Add a little white wine (1/2 to 1 cup) if you happen to have some, and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Strain, season with salt and use in the soup.
This classic fresh pea soup is as delicate and light as early summer. You could serve it hot, warm, or cold in coffee cups before the barbecue blow-out on the Fourth of July to keep the hungry hordes happy before the main course comes off the grill. The recipe can be doubled if you want to make more. Be sure to save some for yourself for lunch or for a snack.
I won’t lie to you; you could also use frozen peas. But that’s a different experience altogether.
Classic Fresh Pea and Lettuce Soup
Makes six 8-ounce servings
1 head (12 ounces) Boston lettuce or other soft, green lettuce
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bunch scallions, trimmed of the tough green part and thinly sliced*
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups (1 pound) shelled peas, from about 3 pounds whole English pea pods
4 cups vegetable stock, pea stock (see above) or chicken stock
About 6 chives, snipped, for garnish
1/2 cup heavy cream, softly whipped, for garnish
1. Meticulously wash the lettuce leaves so there is no trace of grit. Tear the leaves into pieces.
2. Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat and add the scallions. Cook for one minute, or until tender but not brown. Stir in the tarragon, mint, and lettuce leaves. Cook gently, until the leaves have wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add the shelled peas and stock to the pot and simmer for about 6 minutes, or until the peas are tender.
4. Puree the soup until silky smooth in a blender. Add more salt and pepper if you like. Ladle into small soup bowls (the soup can be hot, warm , or cold.) If you wish, garnish each bowl with a spoonful of the unsweetened whipped cream and a few snipped chives.
*Cut the tough ends in slices and use in stock or freeze for later use in stock
Boston Globe writer Sally Vargas runs a Zen kitchen. “Cooking, it turns out, is a fantastic way of cultivating awareness and presence and somehow the two seemed to stick with me.” Cook with Sally here in her monthly column for The Magazine of Yoga, and make yourself at home on her blog Cooking Lessons.
We may publish any content, comments or ideas sent to us.
Name may be withheld by request.
© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.