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Split Pea Soup Tuesday

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Today is a perfect day to have Split Pea Soup for dinner -- it is cold and crisp outside with a beautiful blue sky and we still have snow on the ground. Even if you live someplace where it is balmy, Split Pea Soup would be a delicious choice for an evening meal. When I lived in California I tried making soup and was not very good at it. I did create a recipe for butternut squash soup that was a success with my son (designer and Etsy seller FlyingJunction) in particular, but other than that my soups tended to came out a bit watery; I did not understand what I could to do make it otherwise. But that was then. After moving to the farm in NY I started experimenting with soup more and at some point I realized what I needed to do in order make soup thicker and then I started learning about all of the different kinds of soups I could make and what the "thickening" trick was with each. When I started playing around with split pea soup I was wanting to make a pea soup for my daughter that would work with her somewhat restricted diet and provide her with a good healthy and nutritious soup. I also wanted to make a split pea soup that I could enjoy as an vegetarian. Not having cooked split peas before, I thought I needed to do some tricky things with flour and olive oil to create a thickening gravy for the soup. The first recipe I developed, while quite tasty was also very time consuming and messy to make. Messy equals too much time spent cleaning up afterwards, and with all of my creativity and responsibilities I wanted something tasty, quick, and easy to clean up afterwards. I had been telling my son, who was still in California, about my adventures with split pea soup -- we have always enjoyed sharing our cooking joys, tricks and techniques, and recipes we have developed with each other. About the time I was experimenting with my split pea soup, he took a micration (my new word for a weekend away from home "micro" + "vacation" = micration) up to Solvang in California and visited Pea Soup Andersen's Inn up that way, home of the famous "Anderson's Split Pea Soup". When he and his sister were little kids and I was raising them as a single mom we would take micrations up to the Solvang area and sometimes stopped in at Anderson's for a cuppa soup. While he was there, he bought two bags of Anderson's split peas in their gift shop which included their famous split pea soup recipe printed on the back; he sent one bag to me in a care package. For anyone who is already familiar with making split pea soup it probably sounds silly that I was taking a complicated approach to it. Following Anderson's recipe my son and I both found that it is a phenomenally easy soup to make and quite tasty without a lot of effort. In the end, we married together some of the more successful points of my split pea soup experimentation, helpful tips from my son, and the simplicity of Anderson's method and came up with our own version, which we call Split Pea Soup for the Soul. It is hearty, healthy, and good for what ails you if you happen to be a bit under the weather (I recently ate some while suffering from a sore throat and it rejuvenated me almost instantly). We pair our Split Pea Soup with a nice golden foccacia bread or a whole wheat pone*, cut into wedges. This soup holds over well so make plenty and you'll have a great left over dinner and possibly a lunch, depending on the size of your family.
*pone [pohn] –noun South Midland and Southern U.S. 2. a loaf or oval-shaped cake of any type of bread, especially corn bread
Ref: Dictionary.com This week I plan to serve roasted red new potatoes along with our soup, as well as seared and sauteed portabella mushrooms. The order I will make my meal in is, 1) bread, 2) soup, 3) roasted potatoes. I am making a fresh, yeast bread using my bread machine for the mixing part so I get that started at least three hours before mealtime. About an hour to an hour and a half before mealtime, I start the soup. Here is our recipe: Firefly's Split Pea Soup for the Soul 1 lb dried green split peas 8 cups water, vegetable broth, or chicken broth (no msg) (or any combination of those three to come up to 8 cups liquid) 1 to 2 cups of chopped celery, using as much of the leafy top structure of the stalks as you can 2 medium to large carrots 1 medium onion (optional) 2 cloves garlic (optional) 3 Tbsp olive oil 2 rounded tsp ground/powdered thyme 1/4 rounded tsp ground cumin dash or two of cayenne pepper dash black pepper Sort through the peas to make sure there are no tiny pebbles in them, then give them a good rinsing under cold water. Place them in a large soup pot and cover with 8 cups of liquid of your choice (as described in the ingredients). Using chicken stock will give you a very healthy version of the soup with plenty of electrolytes. I use either organic chicken broth with no msg or Swanson's version with no msg. Get the pot of peas and liquid boiling (covered) while you chop and prepare your vegetables. After the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and keep it at a rolling simmer. Meanwhile, chop up your celery starting with the leafy part at the top. Get that all chopped up and measured and then add chopped up stalks to bring your total chopped celery to either 1 or 2 cups (I prefer 2 cups for a heartier soup). Throw the celery into the soup pot, stir and cover. Peel and chop the carrots, then add them to the pot as well.  Note: The more carrots you use, the less green your soup will be. Next chop up your onion and mince the garlic, if you choose to use these. If you will be serving someone who suffers from headaches do not saute the onions or garlic, because serving them sauteed could trigger a headache. You can just throw them into the soup pot without sauteing and the soup will come out quite lovely. Skip the onion and garlic if you would rather not include them, and your soup will still come out very tasty. Let the soup cook at a rolling simmer for a good hour or so, stirring occasionally. At some point you will notice, when you stir it, that the peas have completely come apart and you will have a soup with a nice gravy like consistency. When it gets to this point, if the carrots are tender, the soup is done. At this point you need to blend the soup so that it all turns to a gravy. I use a hand-held immersion blender for this purpose. If you don't have one you can strain and mash the soup through a sieve (my least favorite and the messiest approach), or carefully put it through a blender or food processor -- do this very carefully so you don't burn yourself. If using a stand-blender, blend only two or three cups at a time, making sure the cover is securely in place each time and being very careful when you pour into or out of the blender. Now, heat up the 3 tablespoons olive oil in a little skillet at a medium heat. Once it is hot, throw in your powdered spices and herbs. Sometimes I also add about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary as a support to the thyme, but this is optional. Let the spices and herbs cook in the oil for 3 to 4 minutes; this will open up and bring out the flavor in a most scrumptious way--but be careful not to have the oil so hot that it smokes at all, because that would scorch the spices. After the herbs and spices are opened up, add them to the soup. Use a little hot water to rinse every last bit of the spicey mixture out of the little skillet so that it all ends up in the soup. Stir, and your soup is ready. If you want to make less soup or more than above, just be sure to use 4 cups of liquid for every 1/2 lb of split peas and divide or increase the other ingredients accordingly. What I like to do also is sear, then saute some mushrooms; add the mushrooms as a garnish on top of the soup at the table.   Today I used portobellos, and they looked beautiful in the soup. Another variation is to cook up some bacon, crumble it up and serve that at the table as a condiment to be added on top of the soup. Adding the bacon crumbles on top of the soup just as it is served is very attractive and also keeps the bacon crisp and tasty, which my family prefers. My son and I join together in sharing this family recipe with you, and hope you and your family have a delicious and comforting dinner tonight ... as we will too! Bon appétit! ~firefly My son is Etsy seller: FlyingJunction (http://flyingjunction.etsy.com), specializing in vintage look subway signs and bus scrolls.  He has worked as a professional artist and graphic designer for more than ten years. His t-shirt designs, sold both online and in exclusive boutiques, have been worn by celebrities around the globe and are frequently spotted at major sporting events, in celebrity photos, television productions, and music videos.  He commutes between Los Angeles and the family farm in upstate New York, calling both places home.

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