Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pea Soup

On Saturday I had my heart set on visiting the Dupont Circle Market. So in the early morning, 90 degree heat, I dragged Gregg down to the circle.
We walked around the area where the market should be, but found no market. Instead, we found a lot of sweat pigeons. We took our first (in five years!) picture of the Dupont Circle Fountain.

In confusion and inner heat, we started the walk home, whereupon we ran into a couple with a small shopping cart. “Are you going to the Dupont Market?” we asked. “You mean the Dupont Market that’s only open on Sundays?” our tactless sidewalk friend snorted.

Yes, that was the one.

This was one long, hot walk to get that basic information that the Dupont market is indeed, open on Sundays. Note to self.

After this groundbreaking news, there was nowhere else to turn but our usual market at 14th and U (definitely open on Saturdays).

I was in search of beautiful spring peas, and I found them. I should mention that this month’s issue of Food and Wine is stellar, and my first dive into their latest recipes was Chilled Spring Pea Soup, a variation of David Boulud’s famous recipe, which appears in his CafĂ© Boulud Cookbook.

I love the idea that famous chefs don’t mind “dumbing down” their recipes for us common folk. Am I too crass to assume that I could create a pea soup as silky and tasteful as Bouluds original? No. Am I good enough to imitate his easier version? Yes.

I’ve been obsessed with soups lately. Odd, considering we’re in the middle of a heat wave. I think I was first intrigued after I found this recipe for zucchini soup, which looked extremely creamy sans any and all dairy. And then I dabbled in a variation of one of Mark Bittman’s soups that I altered with swiss chard, bacon and white beans. I think it’s the idea that I can chop up so many beautiful fresh ingredients, put them in a pot and let them simmer and sweat, creating beautiful smells in my kitchen. And I can bring them to work all week as lunch, their smells and tastes reminding me of the happy hours spent on weekends walking through markets (when they’re open) and chopping vegetables over front of my condo-sized cutting board. Alas.

The pea soup was as perfect as an amateur pea soup could be. And as I’ve spent several days at work without air conditioning (yes, the system broke during the heat wave) I’ve enjoyed eating this soup cold. Here’s the link to the recipe, and below is how I made it with a few of my own alterations (most notably, I wanted a lower-fat version, so I switched out the cream for fat-free half and half. Oh, and I’m sorta anti-rosemary right now.)

Ingredients:
8 slices of bacon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
5 cups vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, thinly sliced
1/2 pound spring peas
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup nonfat half and half
1 garlic clove, minced

Directions
In a medium soup pot, cook the bacon over moderate heat until browned and crisp, about 6 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate. Pour off the fat in the pot.

In the same pot, heat the olive oil. Add the celery and onion and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 7 minutes. Add the veggie stock, 4 slices of the cooked bacon and a pinch each of salt and white pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes. Discard the bacon. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a blender.

Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the sugar snaps and spring peas and cook for 5 or 6 minutes (until the peas are soft). Add the parsley and cook just until heated through, about 1 minute; drain. Add the sugar snaps, spring peas and parsley to the blender and puree until smooth, adding a few tablespoons of the broth to loosen the mixture. Transfer the soup and the remaining broth to a large bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water to cool.

In a small saucepan, bring the half and half garlic to a boil. Simmer over low heat until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Strain the garlic cream into a bowl and let cool.

Ladle the chilled pea soup into bowls and drizzle with the garlic cream. Crumble the remaining 4 slices of bacon into each bowl and serve.

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