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Spring 2014

Recipe Box

Chilled English Pea Soup

by Beth Pladson

Despite the presence of copious amounts of allergens floating through the air, I love spring! Here in Sacramento, the Farm-to-Fork capital of America, we are incredibly fortunate to be near one of the largest agricultural areas in California, giving us year round access to Farmers’ Markets with a wide variety of seasonal produce, meats, and cheeses from local sources.

One of my favorite spring vegetables are English peas. And one of my favorite things to do with them is turn them into a chilled soup. This version is super easy and quick. It’s great as an amuse bouche, a soup course, or an entrée accompaniment, but it can be pretty filling by itself. This soup is also a perfect choice to take on a picnic — easily transported and cool for the soul on a hot day. Throw in some sparkling wine, and you’ve got my perfect Saturday afternoon!

This recipe uses buttermilk as the main liquid, but you can make a dairy-free version by substituting the buttermilk with a regular, unsweetened milk-alternative and thicken with some cashew cheese.

Tip: English peas are a pain to shell. You can more easily peel open the shell by poking through the seam on the pod and spreading it apart. You can then push out the peas.

Tip: Leeks are grown in sandy soil, which likes to get in between the leaves. To clean, first cut off the top portion an inch or two above where the white part of the leek turns green. Remove the outermost layer(s). Slice down the middle of the leek until you almost reach the base. Then you can separate the leaves and rinse between them. Cut off the base and you’re ready to chop the leek!

Frozen peas will also work if you can’t get them fresh. I even saw packaged English peas at Trader Joe’s the other day!

Ingredients

  • ½ pound English peas, shelled, or defrosted packaged peas
  • 2 T butter
  • 5 cloves diced garlic
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 1 cp vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 2-3 cp buttermilk
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • crème fraiche and Greek yogurt (if desired) for garnish

(continued above)

Method

Season a pot of water and bring to a low boil. Gently place the peas in the water and cook for about 2-3 minutes. It’s best to just test at least one, though, just to be sure. Actually, it’s always best to grab a little bite to “taste” it, no matter what you’re making, right? Remove from the water when they’re still a little bit crunchy, yet tender. Strain and allow to cool.

While they cool, add olive oil to coat the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the leek and garlic. Cook until fragrant and translucent. Add the butter and melt. Remove from heat. Place 2 cups buttermilk in a blender with the leek, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the peas, setting aside some for a garnish, if you wish. Blend until smooth or desired consistency. Add more buttermilk and/or broth until you reach your desired thickness. You can also use an immersion blender, although this will yield a slightly less smooth soup. Place in the fridge for at least half an hour before serving.

Spoon a dollop of crème fraiche on it and serve with croutons or a toasted baguette with melted parmesan cheese or garlic rub.

Makes 5-6 servings.

P.S. If you need ideas for what to do with the leftover buttermilk, try biscuits, pancakes, or mashed potatoes.