Monday, November 21, 2011

give (split) peas a chance•autumn soup

This time of year I find myself wanting to move to a warmer climate.  Or, alternately, bake things and make soup.  Since I can't drag my husband out of the mountains, this is a recipe I've pulled out every autumn for a few years now.  And, it's one that most of my family really likes.
This is probably not what you think of as split pea soup.  It's not green, but a gorgeous deep golden color (not entirely accurately represented by my cheesy point-and-shoot photo below).  It's not super-salty, and it contains no pig.  I was even considering leaving the split peas out of the title so as not to turn anyone off.  But I'm going to take a risk here.  Take a stand for the split peas.
I like to serve it with grilled cheese made with aged white cheddar on whole wheat bread, but it would also make a nice starter to a fancier meal.  Or, you can sip it through a straw like Owen likes to do.  Do whatever you like-- we try to be a non-judgmental family.  But whatever you do, try the soup.  You may become a little less judgmental of split peas.

The veggies (etc):
  • 1 cup dried yellow split peas (the green variety also work), plus soaking water
  • Two large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1 TBS canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 TBS minced fresh ginger root
  • 7 cups water
  • One large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups)
  • One large apple, peeled, cored and cubed (about 1 cup)
  • A three-or-four inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • One medium tomato, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 TBS lime juice (about half a lime if you're using fresh)
  • 1 TBS soy sauce
  • Plain yogurt and/or chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

The love:
  1. A little while before you really plan on getting down to business and starting the soup, quick-soak the split peas: Rinse them well, then put them in a saucepan and cover with a couple inches of water.  Bring to a boil, simmer for two minutes, then turn off the heat and let sit for a half hour to a couple hours.  Drain them just before you add them to the soup.*
  2. Heat the oil in your soup pot and saute the onions until they're golden.
  3. Add the cumin, turmeric, coriander and ginger and stir for about a minute.
  4. Add the drained split peas, 7 cups water, sweet potatoes, apples, and cinnamon. 
  5. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until the peas are tender, 30 minutes to an hour.
  6.  In a small bowl, combine chili powder, tomatoes, lime juice and soy sauce.  Add to the pot once the peas are done. 
  7. Remove the cinnamon stick**, then puree the soup right in the pot with an immersion blender (you really should invest in one if you don't have one-- they are really quite fun and handy), or blend everything in batches in a food processor or blender.  Add water, if needed, to reach a good consistency.
  8. Gently reheat if you need to, and serve garnished with a dollop of yogurt and a pinch of cilantro leaves if you'd like.


*These instructions are specially adapted to cooking at 8,300 feet.  If you live at a more reasonable elevation, you may be able to skip the quick soak and add the rinsed but un-soaked peas right in at step number four.  You'll also notice a big window in the cooking time in step number five-- this time will depend on whether you pre-soaked and for how long, as well as, of course, your elevation.  Make this once or twice and you'll have a better feel for how much time to allow.  Worry not-- if the soup's done early it will not hurt it to sit for a while and be gently reheated.  This soup even freezes well.
**I once forgot this step, and started whirring away with the immersion blender, only to find it working kind of jerkily.  Then I discovered chunks of bark stuck in the blades.  Oops.  I managed to salvage the soup, though-- I picked out the big chunks and pureed the bejesus out of what was left.  It tasted just like it usually does-- perhaps with a little bonus fiber!

Where credit is due:

This recipe originated from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites.  I've made a few minor adjustments-- mostly for altitude, and also to remove any (blasphemous!) low-fat references.  But the end result is probably pretty true to the original recipe's intentions (and I still firmly believe the intention was to change people's minds about split peas...).
By the way, I have not picked up any Moosewood cookbook and found fewer than a half-dozen recipes I really wanted to try, and most of them that I've tried I've made repeatedly.  Good stuff.

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