This warm-weather starter is great hot or cold
It’s summertime where we live, and that means garden-fresh produce. We’re starting to harvest from our own backyard, and the stalls at our local farmers’ markets are overflowing.
This time of year, one of our favorites is sweet peas. When freshly harvested, they barely need cooking. And this is one veggie you want to eat as soon as possible after it’s picked. Wait too long and the flavor starts to fade.
But even if you don’t have fresh peas available (likely, because their season is far too short), you’re still in luck—they freeze extremely well. What you buy in the frozen-food aisle can often be as good as (sometimes even better than) what you find in the produce section.
Fresh or frozen, sweet peas taste great in this minty soup. So what the heck, go ahead and use frozen. Your guests will think you slaved away in the kitchen, shelling mounds of fresh pea pods. We won’t tell.
Recipe: Summer Pea Soup with Mint
You need about 4 cups of shelled peas for this recipe. Tiny baby peas are best, but the more mature ones work well too (that’s what we used for this batch). When using fresh peas in the pod, we estimate that after shelling, we’ll get about a cup of peas per pound of pods—that’s after eating quite a few along the way, of course.
This recipe makes a soup with a fairly thick consistency. If you prefer a thinner soup, add more chicken stock to the mix.
This dish takes about 20 minutes to prepare. It yields 4 to 6 first-course servings. Leftovers keep for a day or two if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- ~½ small red onion (exact quantity not critical, but you want about 4 tablespoons minced)
- 1 garlic clove (see Notes)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- salt to taste (we suggest starting with ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt; see Notes)
- 4 cups shelled fresh or frozen green peas
- ~2 cups chicken stock (may substitute vegetable broth or water; see Notes)
- ¼ cup mint leaves, tightly packed
- black pepper to taste
- sour cream, crème fraiche, or yogurt (optional)
- garnish of mint leaves and/or red onion, sliced or diced (optional)
- Peel the red onion, and cut into fine dice of ¼-inch or less (we usually chop it in a mini food processor). Set aside.
- Peel the garlic clove, then mince finely (we usually combine this with the onion in Step 1, and whirl the whole thing in a mini food processor). Set aside.
- Heat a 3- or 4-quart saucepan, preferably one with a wide bottom. When hot, add the olive oil. When the oil is warm (it’ll shimmer; this usually takes 15 seconds or so), add the minced onion and garlic. Add salt to taste, then sauté on medium-low heat until the onion is translucent but not brown (5 minutes or so).
- When the onion is ready, add the peas and cook for 30 seconds. Then add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cook the mixture until the peas are just tender (usually 2 minutes or a bit less; but see Notes).
- While the peas are cooking, chop the mint finely.
- When the peas are done, taste the soup, add black pepper to taste, and add more salt if necessary. Add the chopped mint leaves. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup to the consistency of your preference (we prefer it slightly chunky; see Notes).
- If serving warm: Ladle the soup into bowls. If you prefer to serve this dish chilled: Allow the soup to cool, then pour it into an airtight container and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Before serving (whether hot or cold), add a dollop of sour cream, crème fraiche, or yogurt (if using) and garnish with mint leaves and/or red onions (if using).
- Frozen peas take just a couple of minutes to cook (as do fresh baby peas). Mature fresh peas take longer—sometimes 5 minutes or more. So taste the peas every minute or so as you cook. When the peas are soft, they’re done.
- Chicken stock makes a richer soup, but substitute vegetable stock if you want to make this dish vegetarian—it will still be very good. Water works too, although the soup will have a thinner flavor.
- When using an immersion blender in this soup, make sure to use one with a stainless steel shaft—plastic ones can crack in the hot liquid. Ask us how we know.
- If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender. Blend the soup in fairly small batches (don’t fill the blender jar more than half full). If you add too much hot liquid to a blender jar, you’ll risk blowing the top off (again, ask us how we know).
- As noted above, we like a fairly chunky texture for this soup. If you prefer a very smooth texture, whirl the soup (in batches) in a food processor. Then force it through a fine mesh strainer.
- We typically use Kosher salt, which is less salty than an equal measure of table salt (because it has larger crystals). So if using table salt, reduce the amount we specify by about half. Then adjust the salt (and pepper) to taste.
- BTW, if you serve this soup chilled, you may find you need additional salt—chilled food often seems to need just a bit more.
- We like garlic in this soup, but you can omit it if you want. Or substitute shallot for the garlic and onion.
- Mint and peas combine beautifully. The amount of mint we suggest here (a quarter cup of packed leaves) provides nice flavor without overpowering the dish. But if you want an extra-minty soup, feel free to add more.
- For a creamier soup, replace some of the chicken stock with heavy cream. Or just stir in some heavy cream or sour cream right before serving (in addition to the dairy garnish).
- Speaking of garnishes, chopped chives make another nice addition to this soup. As do Homemade Croutons.
“Peas and mint, yum,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “A classic combo.”
“Simple to make too,” I said. “In fact, it’s easy-peasy.”
“Good for us pea-brains,” said Mrs K R.
“Just wish we had a cocktail right now,” I said. “We could toast to world peas.”
“Terrible pun,” said Mrs K R. “I can’t pea-lieve you just said that.”
“Speaking of terrible,” I said. “Your pun was pea-itiful.”
“True,” said Mrs K R. “Guess we’re just two peas in a pod.”
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