Herbed Green Pea Soup
This show stopper of a soup is not only good looking, but it also packs a bright and fresh taste! It makes for an incredible first course, light lunch, or heart dinner with a grilled cheese for dipping. This has become one of Ron’s favorite soups, and luckily for me, frozen peas are available year round!
4 ounces Panchetta (or bacon), small dice
4 cups chopped leeks, about 2 leeks*
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
5 cups frozen peas
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves loosely packed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of basil finely chopped
1/2 cup crème fresh, or 1/3 cup cream cheese
TO SERVE: Baguette, 1 clove garlic, peeled and root discarded, 1/2 cup crème fresh or 1/4 cup cream cheese, a splash of milk, maybe one teaspoon, thinly sliced fresh chives, and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
Heat a heavy bottomed soup pot over medium. Sautee the pancetta, stirring frequently until the fat has rendered and the meat is crisp, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the crisped meat from the pot onto a plate lined with paper towel leaving behind the fat. Set aside for garnishing.
Add the leeks and onion to the pot, season lightly with ¼ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and stir to combine. Cook until the onions are soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the chicken stock and peas and bring to a simmer for three minutes. Add the mint and simmer for one additional minute.
Off the heat, add the lemon zest and basil. Allow the mixture to cool for about 10 minutes to make blending less dangerous.
Fill your blender 1/3 of the way up with the pea soup mixture. Remove or open your steam valve per the manufacture’s instructions. Pulse the mixture 5-10 times to break up the peas and then blend until smooth. Add ½ cup of the pea mixture to the blender with the smooth mix, and blend until incorporated and smooth. Continue this process until all of the soup is blessed to a super smooth consistency. Add the ½ cup of crème fresh and blend to thoroughly combine. At this point you can freeze the soup for later use (up to 4 months), refrigerate to serve later that day or the next, or reheat to serve immediately.
To serve, transfer the soup to a clean soup pot and heat over medium, stirring occasionally until hot for serving. In a small bowl, combine the crème fresh with a small splash of milk or cream to loosen it just slightly. Slice the baguette into 1 inch thick slices and toast. I use about 2 slices per serving. Carefully remove the toasted slices of bread from the oven or toaster and gently rub the garlic over the surface of the warm bread to lightly flavor. Cut the bread into 1 inch cubed.
Ladle the hot soup into bowls and garnish by drizzling the cream mixture over the surface, adding the garlic baguette croutons, pancetta, chives, and cracked pepper on top. Enjoy!
*Be sure to clean the leeks very well. They grow in sandy soil so the layers often have the grit stuck in between. To clean and chop your leeks, fill a large, deep bowl with cold water and set aside. Cut off the green tops and discard as they are often tough and indigestible. Split the white portion in half and then cut into ½ inch half-moon slices. Place all of these into the bowl of water and break them up well and lightly agitate them in the water. Leave to sit for about 5 minutes to allow the sand to sink to the bottom. Scoop out the leeks and place on a towel and pat dry. Be sure not to scoop too deep into the bowl or you’ll catch a little sand with your leeks – not so yummy.