Peas and poetry

I saw what looked like an irresitable recipe for fresh pea soup on jfeldt’s blog, Progress and Procrastination. As it’s the season of fresh peas, I decided to try it with excellent results.  It turned out every bit as enchanting a green the original. I made a few modifications to the recipe, so repeat it below. The virtues of this recipe include:

  • takes about 10 minutes start to finish (not counting shelling the peas)
  • is a delectable green color
  • tastes fabulous and is relatively low calorie

Fresh Pea Soup

1 onion, chopped
1 to 2 cloves garlic or ½ a green garlic head, crushed
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 3/4 Cups fresh peas (you can use frozen)
small handful of herbs (I used thyme, lemon verbena and garlic chives)
1 avocado
1 Cup water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Put the olive oil in a saucepan and heat. Add chopped onion and garlic and cook gently till softened but not brown (2-3 minutes) Place frozen peas in on top of the onion and garlic, add herbs, and just cover with water. (I didn’t use vegetable stock because I thought it might ruin the green color.) Bring to a boil until peas are bright green and al dente (about 5 minutes).

Add all to blender with the avocado and 1 cup of water and liquefy. Return puree saucepan and add salt, pepper, cayenne, and lemon juice. Stir constantly until just boiling. Serve warm.   I put a mint leaf on top just for fun. Mint might be a good addition.

Several years ago, I heard an NPR broadcast about Gregor Mendel and wrote this poem about him and his peas and his bees. It occurs to me that I now also have both bees and peas, though not with the same objectives!

Sexing the Pea

Mendel in his monk’s robes strolled
amid hermaphroditic peas, tweezed open
each pea flower keel, snipped filament and anther
and shoved the pollen deep into the womb
of his pocket.  Then, bending to the female
flower parts—not yet sticky, immature—
he twisted over stigma, style and ovary
a calico cap, to protect the pea’s virginity.

Pudgy, stooped above his flowery flock,
he chose the moment and the father strain
for each sweet pea. He touched
each fragile, trembling pistil
with his tiny brush. When the flowers
turned to fruit, he sorted out
three hundred thousand peas.

His single published text, eye-crossed
with figures, was ignored for almost forty years.
But Mendel spent his sun-blessed days
amid the odor of pea blossom,
deep in the unembarrassed sex of flower and bee,
and puzzled out the logic of genetics,
before we had the word for gene.

Meryl Natchez

Rainy day soup

This is a strange, rainy month here in Northern California—usually the rain stops mid-March except for a shower or two, and doesn’t start up again until October or November. But this year, it’s as if the Monsoon keeps drifting across the Pacific. It just isn’t stopping.

Because it was so cold and wet, I decided to make soup, looked at what was around and came up with a really yummy roasted garlic and cauliflower soup.

1 small cauliflower, washed and sliced
1 head garlic
oil or coconut ghee
1 leek
1 small onion
6 or 7 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 very small potato, peeled and sliced thin
handful of fresh peas, shelled
juice of half a lemon
good splash of sherry
½ teaspoon of fresh ginger
chopped chervil and chives (about a tablespoon)
salt, pepper
stock and/or water

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Put the cauliflower slices in a bowl and coat with oil or melted ghee. Spread the cauliflower on a baking sheet on a Silpat or tin foil. Oil a head of garlic and put it on there, too. Set them in the oven to brown (about 20-30 minutes).

While they are roasting, slice the leek, the onion, the mushrooms and sauté them in a heavy saucepan over medium heat in just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  Add some salt, grate in the ginger. Stir as they brown, and when they are lightly browned (about 5-10 minutes, depending on your heat), add the sherry to deglaze the pan.  Once the alcohol has boiled off, add the lemon juice. Take about half the vegetables out and reserve them. Add the potato and about 4 cups of stock (I used a handful of chicken stock ice cubes and about 2 cups of water, but you can use plain water or vegetable stock). Simmer while the cauliflower and garlic roast in the oven.

Once the cauliflower is lightly browned (the small pieces may brown first, if so, take them out and add them to the soup), add all the cauliflower to the soup and continue to simmer while the garlic cools.  Squeeze out the garlic from the peels into a blender. Add about ¼ of the soup. Blend till smooth.  Add the rest of the soup (you may need to do this in two batches; it just about fit in my blender). Once everything is blended and smooth, return the soup to the pot. If the soup is too thick, add some more stock or water—it should be creamy but not too thick.  Add the reserved onion/leek/mushroom mix, and the shelled peas.  Add the herbs.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Simmer another few minutes.

A wonderful cure for spring chill.  I served with slices of whole wheat walnut levain and a salad.  The sherry was Larry’s idea, and a really good one. When I asked him to taste the soup to see if it needed anything, he said, “It needs to be in a bowl.”  I agree!