Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Soups: Fresh Pea ... and how to preserve grape leaves

Not only is fresh pea soup easy to make, it is also refreshingly delicious.  When served cold, it makes a perfect culinary accent to a sultry day.

Simple recipes shine when the very best ingredients are chosen so I used my own garden's petite pois/green onions/rosemary along with my home-made chicken stock.  If you don't have a veggie garden, consider going to a farmer's market. 

Fresh Pea Soup Recipe
(Makes 4 small servings, ideal for a first course or two larger servings that can be accompanied with cheese and bread.  Fresh pea soup can be served either hot or cold)

  • Peas, shelled and preferably fresh but a good frozen brand will work, 500 grams (3 cups/roughly 1 pound)
  • Cream, 75 ml (1/4 cup)
  • Chicken broth, if not home-made, get the very best available, 500 ml (2 cups)
  • Scallions/green onions, 4 medium
  • Butter, 30 grams (1-2 tablespoons)
  • Rosemary, fresh/frozen, a small sprig
  • Yogurt, plain, full fat, several tablespoons per serving
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Reserve the tops of the green onions for later garnishing and slice the white bottoms.  Saute them in butter for a minute or too, till soft.  Add broth, peas, and rosemary and simmer till peas are cooked, about five minutes.  Blend in a mixer for the most smooth texture--though a hand-held mixer would do a good enough job.  Season to taste, serve in cups, ramekins, or small soup bowls, topped with a swirl of yogurt and some sliced scallions.

How to make decorative swirls of yogurt without a multi-purpose pastry bag?  Think fluid dynamics!  I beat the yogurt still it is pretty runny and then practice first with a small amount of soup with how high I need to suspend the spoon.  I applied mine in a circular fashion, but a different pattern can certainly be used.

I enjoy crops with dual harvests: beets/turnips roots and greens,  green peas and shoots, onions and scallions, garlic and scapes.  Then there are grapes which bestow those perfect gems of concentrated fruit flavour along with delectable leaves for stuffing.

One of  our ten vines

I harvested our grape leaves in mid May when the leaves are light green, unblemished, and roughly the size of a woman's palm. Older, larger leaves are too tough for culinary purposes.  I snip off as much of the stem as I can.

With the fast and heavy pace of sowing, transplanting, weeding, mowing, harvesting, and preserving at present, I only had time for blanching and preserving them--eventually I will make stuffed grape leaves, one of my favourite foods.

Preserving Fresh Grape Leaves

Grape leaves need to be blanched first before using and before preserving. Wash leaves under running water, then either bring water to a boil in a large pot, turn heat off, and add leaves and let sit for around 3 minutes or pour boiling water into a pot, toss in the leaves, and let sit for the same amount of time. Remove with a slotted spoon.  Rinse under cold running water.  Separate leaves and pat dry with paper towels.  You can now proceed with the recipe or place them in a labelled bag for freezing.

The leaves turn olive green once blanched

As they are being patted dry, whittle down any remaining stem to prevent holes being made when they are stacked.

Such a lovely, burnished, gold-green colour

Sorted into piles of similar size

I tear up a few less perfect ones for cushioning layers of Dolmades

It is important to keep one's wits about her when the pace of gardening gets intense.  On that note, I leave you with this calm, cool, collected Calla:

Michelle's Astuce:

All green herbs--as in what you can do with all that fresh rosemary you bought so you can toss a sprig into this soup--can be chopped and frozen.  When needed, just crumble a bit off.  Or a little water can be added to the chopped herbs which are put in an ice-cube tray.  The cubes are then stored in a freezer bag.


How to sow peas
How to preserve peas by freezing