Creamy, Cool Spring Pea Soup (No Real Cream Required!)
March 28, 2011
Every year, I look forward to the springtime vegetables appearing in the open markets—the fresh English peas are particularly sweet and delicious.
If your appetite is as unpredictable as the weather in the spring, try this creamy pea soup that tastes great served steamy hot or slightly chilled. Peas have protein and fiber, and contain vitamins C, K, A and B6, so this soup makes a quick pick-me-up with a side of fresh veggies, like cucumbers, celery or baby carrots. I also serve it as a small dinner party appetizer in demitasse cups with a grilled lime shrimp on the side.
3 pounds (approximately 3 to 3 1/2 cups) fresh peas (in pods), setting aside 20 peas for garnish
6 slices imported prosciutto
1 medium onion, cut in quarters
2 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 quart chicken stock, homemade or store bought
5 fresh basil leaves, for garnish
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
Cracked pepper, to taste
Shuck all the peas from the pods and set aside in a bowl.
Preheat oven to 375°.
Place 3 slices of prosciutto on a baking sheet, and bake 10 minutes until crispy. Remove from oven, cool and crush into small chunks using the back of a knife. Set aside.
In a food processor process the onions, celery, carrots and 3 slices of prosciutto into small pieces. Pour the olive oil in a medium-size soup pot, add the vegetable mix, salt and sauté on medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring several times while cooking. Add the chicken stock and bring to a gentle boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes; add the peas and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a blender, ladle the soup in batches, and blend for 2 minutes each time. (It's important to blend that long to get a smooth, creamy consistency.) Taste and correct seasoning, adding more kosher salt if necessary. Pour into a medium bowl, and cool on the counter for 30 minutes. Cover and place into the refrigerator for 3 hours to chill. If you want to speed up the cooling process, place the soup that has cooled on the counter in the freezer for 30 minutes, then place in the refrigerator for 90 minutes. Warning: Do not put hot soup in the freezer. There is always a concern that the bowl will crack with such extreme temperature changes.
Prepare the basil leaves last; place the leaves on top of each other, roll tightly and slice into thin ribbons.
To Serve: Ladle soup into individual soup dishes, and garnish with a teaspoon of prosciutto bits, 5 to 6 basil ribbons, 1 teaspoon of fresh mint and some cracked pepper. For a finishing touch, place some of the remaining fresh peas that were put aside at the beginning on top.