La Primavera Pea Soup with Avocado, Smoked Cheddar & Arugula Pesto Tartine
This is a lovely springtime fresh pea soup, so I've named it "La Primavera" Soup. When fresh English peas are in season at the farmers' market, it's the time to make this luxuriously green pot of fresh springtime in a bowl. It's hearty enough to pair with open faced "tartines" like my avocado, smoked cheddar & arugula pesto melts (you can add honey roasted turkey or ham if you'd like) with sprigs of arugula and fresh homemade arugula pesto.
For the soup:
- 1/2 red onion, sliced using a mandolin/grater, fine
- 1/2 bulb of green garlic, minced fine
- 4 cups shelled peas
- 1-2 large pats of good butter (European unsalted, sweet cream)
- 6 cups of vegetable broth
- a few dollops of heavy cream (quality organic cream from a glass bottle if you can)
- a few dashes of pink himalayan salt and peppercorns, ground fine
- 1 bay leaf, remove before blending the soup
Vegetable Broth (Anna Thomas' recipe from 'Love Soup'):
- pods from 3 lbs of peas
- 1 large carrot
- 1 large onion
- 2 stalks celery
- few stems of fresh parsley
- 1 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
- a few peppercorns
Serve with Avocado, Smoked Cheddar & Arugula Pesto Tartines
- 4 slices of good bread (challah, garlic foccacia, etc.)
- freshly made arugula pesto *(next recipe)
- smoked cheddar
- ripe avocadoes
- paprika (smoked Spanish paprika from Penzey's Spices is yummy)
- wild arugula
- cayenne pepper
- turkey or ham (optional)
Place the sliced bread on a sheet of foil to go under the broiler. Slather the bread with your fresh arugula pesto. Shred the smoked cheddar on top of the bread with pesto. Meanwhile, have your avocadoes ready! Halved and ready to scoop on top of the bread after you have broiled and melted your open-faced sandwiches. Also have your arugula leaves and paprika mise en place'd (and also your dash of cayenne, but careful! Don't confuse their bright red-orange colors). Melt the cheese and pesto until it looks delicious. Then, using your oven mitt and spatula, carefully place them on a plate for decorating with the avocado, arugula, smoked Spanish paprika (and for heat, cayenne). If you want, add some turkey or ham to the pesto and cheese melt before you broil the sandwiches.
To make the soup, it's really very simple! You will be surprised at how easy it is. When you have fresh peas, the question is: shelling or buying them shelled. I was fortunate enough to have found my fresh peas at the farmers' market, already shelled and in a bag. This was a wonderful discovery. Shelling peas is a bit time consuming. I don't mind, and find it a moment of meditation to shell the peas. The other thing is: you must use them right away. The magical beauty of fresh peas is fleeting--- it is essential you use them after they have been shelled, or they lose the vibrant flavor and delicacy. Also, making your own broth is better than store bought, for reasons I don't need to explain. If you want to make your own broths for soups, it is wise to do so ahead of time and have them ready (freezing batches of broth). You can make a vegetable broth that works with this pea soup---- using the pods of the shelled peas!
(I learned this trick from the Soup Goddess "Love Soup", Anna Thomas)
I like the recipe for the vegetable broth that Anna Thomas uses specifically for Pea Soup, but if you must use store bought, please use Imagine or another organic brand, and watch out for sodium content. Not only do you not want to overload this delicate fresh pea soup with salt and ruin it, but it's not healthy to use so much sodium. You want to be sensual, not puffy from salt.
Making up this recipe was a lesson in restraint. Usually I like to start with a "soup base" of olive oil (a generous dollop in the pot or two), saute finely chopped red onion and sometimes a little garlic on a low flame and go from there. But this would overpower the delicate peas. So I just put in a large pat of European butter, melted it, and shaved a tiny bit of red onion, very thinly, with a mandolin or a grater, so that the hint of red onion is there. Also, green garlic is good to use. Then I added the peas (about 4 cups). Coating the peas in the butter, I then added my broth, a bay leaf, and heated the pot of broth and peas to simmer on a medium-low heat for about 15-20 minutes.
Anna Thomas has her version, adding a chopped yellow onion, a head of butter lettuce, a few tablespoons of lemon juice, and seasoning with salt and pepper.
I kept mine fairly simple. I think the butter lettuce would add a nice touch of freshness, but I didn't have any in the fridge. I wasn't sure how I wanted to season it either. The peas make it easy peasy--- just allow them to cook in the broth, season lightly with good salt and pepper--- maybe grind some peppercorns and himalayan sea salt, which I did in my own grinder. I also exploit my Vitamix in making creamy soups.
I'd say, a good blender is essential. I absolutely love my Vitamix.
With the pea soup, it was ready to blend. (Remember to remove your bay leaf before blending). I allowed the pot of pea soup to cool a little before blending. Some blenders (like Vitamix) can handle the heat. I still like to wait, and ladle portions of soup into the blender, having another pot ready for the blended soup to be transferred into while blending batches.
I add the heavy cream to the blender along with the soup (another reason to let it cool before blending). Just a little bit of cream. Blend. Transfer the creamy soup to the pot set aside for the blended soup. Take some more soup from the pot to blend, repeat, until you have blended all your soup and it looks creamy and green.
Once you've blended it and it's happy in its pot, warm it while seasoning. I added the pink himalayan salt and peppercorns with my grinder.