Move over, gazpacho — local legumes make a supremely summery soup.
By Annemarie Ahern
Fresh pea soup is a consummate vision of summer, and it’s not to be confused with the gray mush your grandmother might have made with shriveled, frozen peas. That’s why perfectly mature peas are always worth the wait. In Maine, cool soil temps keep the tiny legumes from bursting at the seams of their pods until early July, when they become round, succulent, and ready for soup making. With a handful of soft herbs to accent the earthy sweetness, a touch of technique to preserve the lively green color, and a garnish of edible flowers to add visual intrigue, a simple pea soup transcends its humble reputation.
Pea Soup with Soft Herbs and Flowers
2 tablespoons butter
2 yellow onions, diced
4 cups fresh, shelled green peas
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
10 leaves mint
10 leaves basil
10 leaves tarragon
1 lemon, halved
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
cream for garnish
edible flowers for garnish
In a 4-quart saucepan, melt butter and add onions with a touch of salt. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until onions are soft and translucent, 10–12 minutes. Prepare an ice bath that will fit the saucepan. Add stock to the onions and bring to a boil. Add peas and a pinch more salt and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. Place the saucepan in the ice bath and stir to cool. (This allows the peas to keep their bright-green color.)
Place half of the saucepan’s contents in a blender along with half of the herbs, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend on high speed until smooth. Pour the blended mixture through a fine mesh sieve and into a clean saucepan, pressing the peas through with the bottom of a ladle. Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients. Stir to incorporate and taste again for seasoning.
To serve, warm the soup and ladle into bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of good, thick cream and a few edible flowers such as forsythia, calendulas, borage flowers, nasturtiums, or sunflowers.
Photograph by Mark Fleming