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Fresh Spring Pea Soup

At the behest of our ring leader this will be a simple post this time around containing the recipe for a soup I made at the most recent meeting of the Estate. The theme was spring, and all the bounty Michigan provides for that season (sadly, though, our resident forager was unable to get his paws on any Morels). It was a fresh Pea soup with mint, lemon and Ramps. It turned out to be the hit of the gathering, and it was the simplest dish I prepared that evening! Proving once again that simplicity in most cases is key. Chef/owner of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago, Rick Bayless, has been quoted as saying, "how many ingredients can be taken away?" and still have a perfect dish. This recipe very much follows that philosophy. So, without further boring you with quotes and rambling: Spring Pea Soup: 3 pounds fresh Peas, without husks 1 bottle semi-dry white wine (Chardonay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, ect.) 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped Juice of 2 lemons 4oz. butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes Ramp stalks, sliced very thin Salt to taste Water Procedure: Start by reducing all but 4oz. of the wine in a 1.5-2 gallon heavy bottomed pot over high heat, reserve the remainder of the wine. When reduced by 3/4 add the peas and enough water to cover them by an inch or so and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the peas are soft, 15-20 minutes after a simmer is reached. Kill the heat and add the mint. Pour into a kitchen blender (in batches if needed) and puree until smooth, or to the desired consistency. We left ours just a little chunky, but that's a point of preference. Were I making this in a restaurant I would have made it as smooth as possible and then ran it through a fine sieve to get a satin smooth texture.
Finishing with butter.

Finishing with butter.

If blending in batches, pour into a mixing bowl or other temporary container until all the peas have been pureed. Add a little water to the blender if the mixture gets too thick to properly mix. This done, return to the pot over medium heat and add water until it's the desired consistency, loose enough to pour off a spoon but not runny. Slowly reheat, stirring often, we don't want to cook it too hard or we'll loose that freshness of the peas and the color will turn to the all too familiar dull "army green" of canned peas. Once steam starts to rise from the surface, add the butter and stir until fully incorporated. Now, bit by bit, and tasting between each addition, add the lemon juice. You may not need all of it, you just want enough to barely taste it through the peas and mint. That done, add the salt, again, bit by bit, and tasting between each addition. You shouldn't need all that much. Stir in the remainder of the white wine and cook for another 5-10 minutes.
Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

That's it! Bowl it up and garnish with the sliced Ramps! Here are a couple alternative garnishes that will work just as well, if not better: Wash the Ramp greens and cut across into 1/2 inch strips. Dredge in corn starch and deep fry until just crisp. Season with a pinch of salt as soon as they leave the hot oil. Saute some fresh Morels in butter until soft. Add the sliced Ramp stalks and cook for another 2 minutes. Then add the Ramp greens (cut as for the previous suggestion) and cook for another minute. Season with a pinch of salt. Delicate cooking and simplicity are the key to this recipe. I would normally use stock instead of just water but for this soup it would have dulled the impact of the star ingredient, the fresh peas. The whole idea of this dish was to showcase their freshness at the height of the season, leaving their flavor as bright, vivid, unobscured and fresh as possible. The result is a recipe that even a retarded monkey could pull off successfully, and a soup that's worthy of any fine dining restaurant menu. Until next time, live well and eat better! Jack