Creamless Cream of Fresh Pea Soup
…an easy soup that can be made with frozen peas and store-bought stock with good results…
I love this soup because I can make it quickly – and it is delicious. It is relatively simple to prepare.
You can use a vegetarian stock or a chicken stock. I salute you if you make your own stocks. In the real world this is not always possible. To improve the flavor of a commercial stock, simmer the stock with some aromatic vegetables and some herbs. I recommend some combination of carrots, celery, onion, leek greens, garlic, parsley stalks, a few sprigs of fresh thyme or a pinch of dried. Simmer for 20 minutes, strain and use. It makes a world of difference.
Commercial stocks tend to be high in sodium, so add extra salt with care. Some high end food markets sell their own homemade stocks–expensive but often quite good. Of course nothing beats homemade. But…………….
I use leeks instead of another member of the onion family because they add a creamy texture on the tongue and a delicate flavor that complements the peas. You could make this with onions, but it would not be as divine.
This soup freezes well. So make extra for a luscious green ambrosia that you can stash in the freezer.
- 1 quart vegetable or chicken stock–packaged, home-made, or packaged-and-enhanced. You can add more if you prefer a thinner soup.
- 2 cups cleaned chopped raw leeks
- 4 teeth garlic
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaf or scant ½ teaspoon of dried
- 2 packages of frozen peas, 10-12 ounces each (or fresh peas)
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt +/- to taste
I prefer petits pois, but any shelled pea will do. Let peas defrost.
Canned peas just do not have the flavor or texture and should be avoided altogether, always! And much to my surprise I often like the results with frozen peas over fresh. But if you have fresh peas that are not too starchy, they can be used.
Simply drop the peas into boiling water for 2 minutes and then drain and refresh with cold water to set the green color. Proceed with the recipe as follows.
- To clean the leeks, slice lengthwise, leaving the stem end uncut so they hold together. I use all but the darkest green parts of the leek. The rejected leaves are good for adding flavor to stocks. Rinse the leaves under cool running water–use a spray if available–while you peel open the layers to remove any sand or grit. Shake to remove excess water
- Cut leeks into one inch pieces and cook with the olive oil over medium heat, covered, until they are meltingly soft. Cooked leeks freeze very well so consider making extra for another dish.
- Combine the stock, peas, and leeks, which should all be at room temperature.
- Puree in a blender in batches using the highest setting until the mixture is emulsified.
- If you have a ‘super blender’ like a Vita Mix, the soup will need no straining. If you have only a standard household blender, I recommend pressing it through a strainer to remove any bits that did not get pulverized. The most efficient way to accomplish this is to use a ladle.
- Stir in the black pepper, taste and adjust the salt to your liking.
- To serve, heat until it is just below the boiling point, steaming hot.
Ladle into warm bowls and enjoy.
There are several ways to garnish the soup if desired.
- Drizzle a stream of extra virgin olive oil. This is a good place to use a fancy estate oil.
- Dust with finely chopped herbs such as chives, flat parsley, tarragon or basil.
- Top with toasted slivered almonds
- A disk of warm goat cheese waiting to be discovered at the bottom of the bowl
- A thin stream of warm heavy cream drizzled like a Jackson Pollock painting
If you are drizzling cream or basil oil, I suggest serving the other garnishes on the side–let each person serve themselves.
My favorite garnish is to make a basil oil so I can drop ‘lily pads’ on the surface. A bit more work, but very easy to make.
- 1 cup densely packed washed basil leaves
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 quart boiling water
- stir the basil leaves into the boiling water for thirty seconds and then drain into a strainer.
- rinse with cold water until they are cool to the touch. This sets the color. Don’t delay the next steps–basil oxidizes quickly.
- gather basil into a ball and squeeze out as much water as you can. You may also squeeze and then press between paper towels. Damp, not wet is the goal.
- put the basil and olive oil into a blender and process at high speed for 5 minutes. The goal is to emulsify the basil and oil
- pour and scrape the basil oil mixture into a strainer with a bowl beneath. Let the basil oil drip through. You may pres it lightly with a spatula but do not agitate the mixture. The oil will be a brilliant green–think of Liz Taylor’s emeralds.
- the remaining basil and oil in the strainer can be used to add flavor to another dish or be turned in a pesto sauce. Tightly sealed, it freezes well.
- the basil oil is now ready to use as a garnish. Drop small circles on the surface of the soup. You can leave them or run a knife through them to create different shapes. Or do your best emerald Pollack. A squeeze bottle, available at any restaurant supply store, makes this easier.