Spring Fever Soup

Last weekend I revived some frozen cherries with a little lemon zest and a punch of dried tart cherries, and the end result was a dessert cobbler rich with syrupy, wine-flavored, almost spicy juicy fruit. Last night I tried the same principles – adding something lemon and something dry to the fresh but frozen – and made a suppertime soup with a few of our frozen peas.

I’m a huge fan of smoky split pea soup made with Easter’s leftover ham bone. That soup is ribsticking, its texture slightly gritty. A soup made with fresh peas, a single herb, and good vegetable stock is altogether different: sweet, silky, delicate. Fresh pea soup celebrates the early part of the growing season and all things newly green after the gray of winter. To me, this pea soup is the essence of spring.

Last week’s few warm days gave me a taste for the season ahead and they also gave me a taste for the fresh fruits and vegetables that I have missed all winter. They left me with a taste for pea soup, the delicate kind. With a few peas in the freezer, lemons and thyme in the fridge, and a bag of dried split peas, might it be possible to cook up a little spring for supper long before the calendar tells me it is possible?

The answer is yes.

Spring Fever Pea Soup

  • olive oil
  • 1 leek, trimmed down to the white and pale green parts, dark leaves discarded or reserved for stock
  • 4 generous sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 cup of dried green split peas, picked over and rinsed
  • 1 fresh lemon, quartered lengthwise*
  • 5 to 5-1/2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock, as you prefer
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sour cream or crème fraîche, optional

Slice the leek up into thin rings and separate.  Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauce pan set over medium heat.  Add the leek rings and the sprigs of thyme to the oil in the pot and stir. Saute the leeks and thyme just until the leeks soften. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking or browning.

When the leeks have softened, add to the pot the rinsed split peas and stir these into the mixture.

Add the quartered lemon and 5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock and bring the mixture up to a boil. (*Note: If you quarter the lemon lengthwise into wedges, rather than cutting across the lemon, the lemon fruit will stay contained by the citrus membranes, and these membranes help prevent seeds from falling into the soup as the lemon cooks down in the broth.)

Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium low or low and maintain a simmer. Simmer this for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the split peas are tender.

When the split peas are soft, remove the soup pot from the heat. Remove the lemon quarters and the thyme sprigs. Strip the leaves from the thyme and add these back to the soup, discarding the woody stems along with the wedges of lemon.

Place the frozen peas in a colander and rinse these under cold water for a minute, then drop them directly into the bowl of a blender. Add to the peas in the blender a few ladles full of the hot stock-split pea-leek mixture and puree until very smooth.

Add the puree back to the soup pot and stir everything together.

If you have a stick blender, blend the soup until it is fairly smooth directly in the pot. If you do not have a stick blender, blend the soup in the blender in batches, keeping some of the texture if desired. Return the soup to the pot. If the soup is too thick for your taste, it may be thinned out at this time with up to a half-cup of additional broth. Taste and correct seasoning with some salt and freshly ground pepper. Reheat and serve immediately.

Drizzle with a little extra olive oil if you like, or a dollop of sour cream. Perfect with homemade croutons or a grilled cheese sandwich for a light supper.

©2012  Jane A. Ward