“Green is the primary color of the world and that from which its loveliness arises.” Pedro Calderon de la Barca”
There is much discussion these days about living a “green” life and if that translates to, being more in tune with Mother nature and making conscience decisions regarding caring for the environment, count be in wholeheartedly. Today, however, green has me thinking about the joy I feel as the spring unfolds and the landscape comes alive with the greenest of greens possible. The rich hue of the grass is the brightest it can ever be and when you speckle that with the sunny dandelions and regal purple of the wood violet, I would be hard pressed to think of a more spectacular scene. I always think autumn is my favorite as the leaves display their wide range of color but I must give spring equal billing for its long awaited glory. I planted herbs on Earth Day in anticipation of their contribution to the summer menu and am anxiously waiting for the day when the threat of cold is gone and we are truly free to indulge our garden passions.
As the weather lifts, our appetites generally shift to lighter fare, but fear not, this doesn’t mean you have to stow away your beloved soup pot. There are many spring and summer alternatives to those warm comforting cold weather meals. Today I am featuring a classic, “Spring Soup with Peas & Mint.” When we think pea soup, our thoughts most likely drift to visions of the army-green variety made with dried split peas, but in this recipe, cooking fresh peas briefly, retains their vibrant color and taste. The addition of the fresh herbs, lemon and a few final drops of rich balsamic vinegar at the end keeps the finished soup looking and more importantly, tasting, bright. This springtime staple can be served either hot or chilled.
Although nothing beats the taste of peas directly from the garden, but good quality frozen peas work well in their absence. That is what I used since the climate here delays the availability of the fresh for now.
Here is how it went down in my kitchen.
SPRING SOUP with PEAS & MINT Serves 6
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
3T unsalted butter
1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4c vegetable or chicken stock
6c shelled fresh peas (from about 6 pounds of pods) or frozen peas, thawed (about 25 oz. or 2 1/2–-10 oz. pkgs)
1/4 c fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 c fresh mint leaves, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon, about 2-3T
1/4 c creme fraiche or sour cream, thinned with 2T of heavy cream, whole milk or water
1/4 c aged balsamic vinegar
Chives, freshly snipped
- Melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, 6-8 minutes.
- Add 2 cups of stock and bring to a boil. Add the peas, reduce the heat and gently simmer, about 5 minutes for fresh and 2 minutes for frozen.
- Remove from heat and add the parsley, mint and remaining 2c of stock.
- Puree mixture in a blender or using an emersion blender. If too thick, thin with more stock or water.
- Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.
- Add lemon juice 1T at a time, tasting as you go and adding more if needed.
- Serve either hot or chilled garnished with a swirl of the creme fraiche, 6-8 drops of balsamic per bowl and a sprinkle of chives.
With its brilliant color and the fresh taste, this dish captures the essence of the season. The little splash of acidity and sweetness brought by the balsamic finish is exactly what is needed to bring it to life without masking the natural flavor of the peas.
When I was a child, dependent on my mother’s culinary creations for sustenance, peas were my hell. I tried everything from hiding them in mashed potatoes to covering them in jam to disguise their flavor and texture. I realized later that it wasn’t peas I hated, it was canned peas, with their gray color and mushy texture, that put my tastebuds in a tail spin. I will never know why the fresh variety, or the much better frozen, escaped my palate. For some reason it was always the canned that graced our table and there was not even a question about eating them, even if they made me gag. Mother definitely subscribed to the clean plate club.
Spring’s culinary delights are in the beginning stages here with ramps and dandelion being one of the first of nature’s gifts. My husband went foraging for ramps this week so I decided to pickle some in hopes of prolonging the brief window of their availability. I have shared a number of recipes for these wild onions in earlier blog posts so please do a search if that is of interest to you. Next on my agenda is my dad’s dandelion salad something I look forward to every year. You will find this recipe on my blog as well.
I do hope you are inspired to dabble in the tastes of spring, be it with peas, ramps, dandelions or asparagus. Do you have favorites you look forward to all winter? Feel free to share. Until next time, remember, “The grass is green where you water it.” Nurture what makes you happy and keep spreading the love, one spring dish at a time. Great dishes and lots of love from my kitchen to yours. Jeanne