Thursday, February 2, 2017

Fresh Pea Soup with Leeks, Dill and Mint

I've been having a love affair with peas from the time I first lived alone, back in 2004. I'm all for making (or going out to) a complicated meal, but give me a 10 oz bag o' freezy-peas for solo dinner in front of the ol' Hulu and that's a semi-embarrassing guilty pleasure that can't be improved.

Or so I thought.

This herbaceous bowl combined the very specific satisfaction that I get from a meal (and I do contend it's a meal) that I'm pretty sure only I would like with the feeling of doing something special for oneself. Taking a few extra minutes to make something nice. Something just a little different, something creamy, something with texture and brightness, something I'll remember instead of something that's just filling a need. What a privilege it is to take a minute to eat, really eat and not just feed, alone. The least utilitarian you could get, but a seriously inexpensive way to make yourself feel loved. 

 This soup served as my happy spot on a rough day, my moment of calm before a mile long to-do list. (Thanks, dumb blog, for making me do stuff like this.) But, really, this barely counts as effort; it takes 20 minutes to make. And if you made this with frozen peas instead of fresh you could make it happen in half that. We aren't talking major investment here, but the whole time I was eating it I had that "lady who just took a sip of fancy coffee in a commercial" look on my face. You know the one. 

lol yep

Okay, now that you have coffee on your mind, I'll tell you what this actually tastes like (Hint: not coffee). Brace yourself: It tastes like peas.

But BETTER, duh. The leeks add some earthy sweetness, which is nice and all, but the herbs will make you feel like you discovered some secret of the universe. So few ingredients, so much flavor.

You'll see two piles o' peas above, because at first I thought I'd cook the garnish separately, but I thought better of it and corrected mid-course. I mean, I stumbled through one whole improv course in college. I can do stuff like that.

My favorite magic touch here is the spinach. You think that beautiful bright green is just from the peas? No way, Shirley May. You'd be hard pressed to convince me that anyone but the most annoying accomplished gourmand would taste the spinach in this soup, but just a cup of fresh leaves not only adds (insert blahblahblah health benefits) but also lends their intense vibrancy that give you a better clue about what it is you're eating. Before your spoon ever hits your mouth, your brain is like "WHOA check out this freshness, babe! Let's go conquer the world! Like, after we're done eating or whatever."
Post-straining refuse. R.I.Pea.

You will love the texture of this velvety soup - I felt like a real soup sommelier the way I was rolling it around on my tongue (no spit bucket though). This comes not just from letting an immersion blender fulfill its divine purpose, but also from giving the fine mesh strainer its due. Is this step of added refinement a bit of overkill on luxury for a dinner standing at my counter? Uh, not today, Satan. 

lol nope

Other easiest-ever way to zhuzh up something simple: the "two ways" ruse. Everything on top of this soup is also in the soup. All you have to do is not blend part of it and boom: both textural and visual interest. If you're thinking "that sounds like cheating," uh, I'm pretty sure it is. But this bowl is just for you, beautiful; and, from where I sit, IT'S CHEAT DAY.

Fresh Pea Soup with Leeks, Dill and Mint

Serves 1 as a meal, 2 as a starter

Splash of olive oil
1/2 cup sliced leeks, white and light green parts only
1 1/2 cups fresh green peas (or frozen, no problem!)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, sliced into thin ribbons

Heat olive oil in a small pot over medium heat and add leeks. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until softened and just starting to brown (5 minutes-ish). Remove about a tablespoon of leeks and reserve for garnish.

Add broth and peas. If fresh, bring to a soft boil for about 15 minutes or until tender; if frozen, cook 5 or 6 minutes until tender and still bright green (don't overdo it!). Using a slotted spoon, remove a about a tablespoon of cooked peas and add to reserved leeks.

Take a big pinch of the dill and the mint and toss it with the reserved peas and leeks. Add spinach and remaining mint and dill, and cook until spinach is wilted (one minute-ish). Blend with an immersion blender or regular blender, taste for seasoning, then pour into a fine mesh strainer set over your very favorite bowl. Using the back of a spoon, press the soup through the strainer, discarding what won't press through. Top with reserved leeks and peas, and eat alone, preferably while listening to your favorite podcast. 

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