Brilliance, beauty, and kindness must be recognized, especially if they come in one neat package. Hence I am writing about my friend Eralda, and her new food blog, The Split Pea.
I met Eralda a year and a half ago. She was one of my husband's graduate students (her husband, Brian, too), and they came to our house for a grad student Christmas party. I liked her immediately. Charming, beautiful, and warm, Eralda put me at ease, an effect I've since learned she has on most everyone who knows her.
I soon discovered she has a little boy the same age as Nick, so we had an easy entree to conversation that first night. But it was when another graduate student (and fellow mother) at the party cornered us for an exhortation of the virtues of cloth diapers, with detailed descriptions of assorted baby poops (size, color, texture) and their abilities to break down in the washing machine with said diapers, that I knew I had found a kindred spirit: we could barely suppress the confluence of gags and giggles.
It wasn't until several months later that I learned Eralda is a brilliant cook. She plays with herbs and spices, tries new things (often), experiments with a range of cuisines (including her native Albania), bakes as well as cooks, and does it all with generosity, the true mark of any great cook. Once you read her blog, it will come as no surprise that she is a creative writer, too.
Her first post is up; as good as it is, I cannot wait for more.
All of the above will undoubtedly embarrass Eralda beyond measure (sorry Eralda, it's all true), so I'll switch gears to talk about a recipe.
The name of Eralda's blog hooked my brain on the subject of peas. Before I get to the culinary conclusion of this brain lock, I'll reveal one of my tricks for ensuring I eat my vegetables.
I love vegetables, but despite my joy in eating them, and my pleasure in cooking in general, I find that if I don't make a concerted effort, I end up consuming little more than a handful at dinnertime. Sure, I put spinach leaves on my sandwiches, and eat salads often, but woman cannot live by spinach sandwiches and salad alone. And if I make the mistake of vegetable zealotry at lunchtime--a recent everything-but-the-kitchen-sink vegetable stir-fry comes to mind; heaven help me, I even threw in some kale--I end up strangely stuffed, yet starving, and subsequently grumpy.
My solution is pureed vegetable soups. I like to sip hot things in general--coffee, tea, yerba mate. So I've taken to throwing vegetables into a pot of simmering broth, seasoning with a short list of herbs and spices, cooking until tender, then pureeing in the blender until smooth. No cream required; the blender renders silken soups without added dairy. The results are easily sipped or spooned, go down easily, are loaded with nutrition, and most importantly, are darn delicious.
Back to the peas.
I've made carrot, spinach, broccoli, tomato, and pumpkin in recent weeks, but why not peas? Frozen peas--the petite ones--are one of the best buys around, from the multiple perspectives of flavor, quality, convenience, and good health. And I knew from pureeing them in the past that thier starchiness makes for a notably velvet texture.
I kept the ingredients to a minimum, making fresh mint from the garden my principle flavor note. It tastes like spring in a spoon. Thanks for the inspiration, Eralda.
Fresh Mint and Petite Pea Soup
Frozen peas are loaded with nutrition: they're a good source of Protein, Carbohydrates, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin, Thiamin, Niacin and Iron, and an excellent source of Vitamin K1 and Folic acid.
The peas don't cook long, just enough to blend the flavors yet maintain the bright green hue.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large onion)
2 16-ounce packages frozen petite peas, divided use
5 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
Optional: Plain nonfat yogurt, stirred
Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté 5minutes until translucent. Reserve one cup of peas. Add the broth and remaining peas. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 3 minutes.
Working in batches, puree soup in blender until completely smooth. Return soup to same saucepan. Bring to simmer and thin with more broth if desired/needed. Stir in half of the mint and 2-3 teaspoons of the lemon juice, to taste. Generously season with salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle with reserved peas and remaining mint and, if so inclined (I am), drizzle or dollop with yogurt. Makes 8 servings.