Clotilde is a young Parisian who lives in the Marais, and blogs about gastronomy and all its tangents (she also has a fantastic cookbook and a guide to Paris' markets and restaurants). Her writing is whimsical -she has a knack for personifying pots, cheery, and often a bit self-deprecating. I read her recipe for chilled pea pod soup the other day and figured it might be a good excuse to hit up one of the stone's throw farm stands. It was. Light, slightly sweet and a little nutty, it's the perfect tribute to the pretty pea pod (though eating them plain can be just as good!). Warning: you will become decorated in pod remnants, and quite a lot (2.5 lbs) of them. But it's so worth it; I promise! Let me (or Clotilde) know if you like it.
Chilled Pea Pod Soup - olive oil - 1 onion, minced - 2 cloves garlic, minced - the pods from 1.2 kg (2.5 pounds) fresh green peas, stems removed, rinsed and drained (no need to thaw them if frozen) - sea salt - 2 tablespoons dry white wine - 1 liter (4 cups) quality stock, brought to a simmer - freshly grated nutmeg (use a whole nutmeg and a small grater) - freshly ground black pepper - hot sauce, such as Tabasco sauce - a few stems of fresh herbs, such as chervil, cilantro, dill, or chives
Serves 4 as a first course.
Heat a little olive oil in a cast-iron or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, stirring regularly. Add the pea pods, season with salt, and cook for a few minutes, until the liquids have evaporated if the pods were frozen.
Deglaze with the white wine, and cook for a minute. Add the hot stock, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 25-30 minutes, until the pods are quite soft. Remove from the heat and let cool, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Put on an apron (I mean it; this can get messy). Using a blender or an immersion blender, whiz the soup in short pulses until all the pods are broken down into chunks. They will refuse to turn to a purée; the goal is simply to break their fibers so they'll be easier to strain.
Set a food mill (or a fine-mesh strainer) over a medium bowl and ladle a few spoonfuls of the soup into the mill (or strainer). Turn the handle of the mill (or press on the solids in the strainer with the back of a tablespoon) to strain out as much of the liquids as you can. Discard the solids (see note) and repeat with the rest of the soup, still working in batches.
Sprinkle the soup with a little nutmeg, stir, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate until well chilled. (To speed up the cooling, set the bowl in a larger bowl filled with cold water and a few ice cubes.)
Pour the soup in glasses, add freshly ground pepper, a dash of hot sauce, and a stem or two of fresh herbs, and serve with thick-cut fingers of levain bread.
Note: Rather than discard the solids right away, I prefer to reserve them in another bowl and strain them again after the first pass: I find I can usually strain out a little more liquid after giving them this short resting time
[Image via Jupiter Images]