Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wayback Machine: Spring Soup, So Many Ways

Sweet readers, we're taking the week off to catch up on some real-life work. In the meantime, we're re-posting some of our favorite recipes and essays. This one was written by Leigh last week. Blogger ate it during their 24-hour loss of service, so we're re-posting. Enjoy!

New Yorkers like their soup. Just how much was a phenomenon unfamiliar to me when I moved here in the mid-’90s and found myself serving it by the bucket to insatiable Upper West Siders. Diners based their lunch orders on the soup du jour and were often despondent if told their favorites were off-menu or, even worse, sold out.

It’s just soup, I would think, sometimes aloud to my fellow waitrons. But what did I know; I grew up eating soup from a can. Occasionally, my grandma would try to get me to eat her homemade vegetable or chicken noodle, but I rebuffed her advances. It wasn’t sodium-rich Campbell’s, and I would have none of it.

As a frugal eater-outer, soup never seemed like a good bargain. A bowl of soup can run upwards of $6 or $7 dollars in a New York restaurant. As a vegetarian, the “is there meat in it?” question is often difficult to nail. One chef/waiter’s meat-free soup is another’s fish stock surprise. A bowl of watery, mushy vegetables just didn't seem worth it.

But somewhere along my home-cooking journey, I discovered something: soup is amazing. It can be simple or complex, light or hearty, bland (in a good way) or rich. Soup is a fabulous way to get vegetables into the diet and, with few exceptions, is easy to make. I don't know what took me so long.

I stumbled on this simple, rich and light green pea soup on Chow.com a few weeks before Easter. The vibrant green color caught my eye; it looked like spring and tastes like spring: green peas, leeks, fresh mint, a squirt of lemon. The sun came out just to see if it could have a taste. With only a few ingredients, this brightly colored soup whips up quickly and makes an impressive starter or light lunch supplement.

Coincidentally, my colleague E supplied the optional crème fraîche when she whipped up a batch from scratch. It was lighter than I expected and added a delightful tanginess to the sweet peas.

Take Chow's advice to water down commercial broth, if you go that route. I didn't for my first batch, which made for a very oily soup when combined with the whole tablespoon of butter the original recipe suggests. I recommend halving the fat and using home-brewed broth (or watered down store-bought) for a less greasy mouthfeel (ew…I said mouthfeel).

Now for the variations. I've made this soup about five or six times since Easter when it made it's debut (to raves). After a couple of batches, I started changing up the veg and the herbs, and it just kept being fantastic, like changing the curtains when you want to freshen up the living room. The variations are listed below the recipe.

I finally get it. Soup is easy, delicious, and versatile, and except for the eating out part, 8 million New Yorkers can't be wrong.

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If this recipe floats your boat, paddle on over to:
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Green Pea Soup
Serves 4–6
adapted from Green Pea Soup from Chow.com


1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
1 medium leek, root trimmed, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
2 1/2 cups homemade vegetable broth or 1 cup low-sodium store-bought vegetable broth mixed with 1 1/2 cups water*
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
3 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 2 1/2 pounds of peas in their pods) or 16 ounces frozen peas, thawed**
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves***
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed
Crème fraîche, optional

1) Heat olive oil or butter in heavy bottomed sauce pan. Saute leek in oil with pinch of salt. Add broth and bring to boil.

2) Add green peas, remaining salt, and black pepper. Return to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

3) Remove from heat, stir in mint (or parsley), and allow flavors to meld for 10 minutes or so.

4) Transfer soup to a blender and puree in batches until smooth. Add lemon juice to tasted.

5) Serve hot or cold with a dollop of crème fraîche or a sprinkle of finely chopped mint or parsley.

Broccoli Potato Variation
Makes 6 servings
* 4 cups vegetable broth
** 12 ounces broccoli, chopped + 8 ounces, red bliss potatoes, washed and chopped into 1/8" dice

At step 2, add broccoli and potatoes, remaining salt, black pepper. Return to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are soft.

Cauliflower Variation
** 16 ounces frozen cauliflower, thawed
***1/4 cup parsley

At step 2, add cauliflower, remaining salt, and black pepper. Return to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
Green Pea (four servings): 131.8 calories, 1.9g fat, 5.5g fiber, 6.6g protein, $.78
Broccoli Potato (six servings): 85 calories, 1g fat, 4g fiber, 3.6g protein, $.59
Cauliflower (four servings): 71 calories, 1.9g fat, 3.8g fiber, 3.6g protein, $.73

Calculations
1/2 tablespoon butter: 70 calories, 7.5g fat, 0g fiber, 0.5g protein, $0.08
1 medium leek: 54 calories, 0g fat, 2g fiber, 1g protein, $0.25
2 teaspoons kosher salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
2 1/2 cups homemade vegetable broth: 50 calories, 0.25g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.48
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
16 ounces frozen peas: 350 calories, 0g fat, 20g fiber, 25g protein, $2.19
[12 ounces broccoli: 164 calories, 0g fat, 20g fiber, 16g protein, $1.32]
[8 ounces red potato: 140 calories, 0g fat, 4g fiber, 4g protein, $1.00]
[16 ounces cauliflower: 108 calories, 0g fat, 9g fiber, 9g protein, $1.99]
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.08
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice: 3 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.00

Note: One teaspoon of crème fraîche per serving adds 7.7 calories and .7g fat.

Green Pea Soup
TOTALS: 527 calories, 7.75g fat, 22g fiber, 26.5g protein, $3.12
PER SERVING (TOTALS/4): 131.8 calories, 1.9g fat, 5.5g fiber, 6.6g protein, $.78

Broccoli Potato Soup
TOTALS: 511 calories, 8g fat, 26g fiber, 21.5g protein, $3.53
PER SERVING (TOTALS/6): 85 calories, 1g fat, 4g fiber, 3.6g protein, $.59

Cauliflower Soup
TOTALS: 285 calories, 7.75g fat, 15g fiber, 14.5g protein, $2.92
PER SERVING (TOTALS/4): 71 calories, 1.9g fat, 3.8g fiber, 3.6g protein, $.73

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