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Pea Soup with Pesto Lemon Cream & Parmesan Croutons

December 17, 2010

Soup. I love soup. A lot. Not the thin, watery kind. But the rich, velvety kind. The hearty, belly-warming kind. The oh-so-creamy-and-delicious kind. And I make it, a lot. Almost once a week. I know, that sounds like soup overload. Why so often, you ask?

Well, first-of-all, a delectable soup is incredibly easy to make. And fast. Throw some vegetables together in a pot, cook, and puree with an immersion blender. Top with some croutons and/or crème fraiche. Enjoy.

Soups like this are so quick and easy because, unlike meat-based soups, vegetable soups don’t have to cook for long. They only have to cook until the vegetable are tender (just a few minutes, as opposed to a few hours). And pureed soups like this one taste so rich. So creamy. So bad for you. I, of course, can’t resist adding some crème fraiche to the top. But just a small dollop. And the pesto lemon cream is so good. Don’t skip it just to save a few calories. Definitely not worth it. Not in my mind, at least. Especially considering how healthy the soup is otherwise.

Don’t have an immersion blender? You can use a regular blender or food processor. But I highly recommend getting an immersion blender—it only costs about $20-30, and since you can puree the soup directly in the pot, it makes cooking soups like this an absolute breeze. And by breeze I mean ready in about 30 minutes on a Wednesday night. Perfect. Are you starting to see why I make soups like this so often?

Well, consider yourself warned. There are going to be a lot of soup recipes on this blog…


Adapted, in a whole bunch of ways, from Gourmet

Serves 3-4 as a main course

Cooking time: 20-30 minutes

I like to make homemade pesto for this recipe, as it’s so quick and easy to make. But if you want to save a few minutes of prep time, you can use store-bought pesto.

For the pea soup

1 small yellow onion
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 medium celery rib
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth or mild vegetable broth
1 lb. frozen peas (approximate—I used 2 small packages)
3 tablespoons basil pesto, to taste (recipe below)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
Fine grain sea salt & freshly ground pepper

For the lemon basil cream

2 tablespoons basil pesto  (recipe below)
3 tablespoons crème fraiche
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

For the parmesan croutons

3-4 slices of a crusty loaf of bread (preferably day old), cubed
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
Fine grain sea salt & freshly ground pepper

For the basil pesto

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 medium garlic cloves
2 cups basil, packed
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup olive oil
Fine grain sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Make the parmesan croutons. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Meanwhile, place the pieces of bread in a large bowl. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and mix together with a couple pinches of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Spread the croutons on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes—tossing occasionally with a spatula—until crispy and golden brown. Push the croutons as close together as possible, and top with about 2 tablespoons grated parmesan. Pop the croutons back in the oven for 1-2 minutes, until the parmesan is melted. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Dice the onion, carrot, and celery. A fine dice is good, but don’t kill yourself here—the soup’s going to be puréed, so the dice doesn’t need to be perfect and uniform.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and sauté until soft and tender, about 6-7 minutes.  Add the broth, and bring everything to a simmer. Once the broth’s simmering, add the peas and simmer everything together, uncovered, until the peas are bright green and tender, about 3 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking and the soup is simmering away, make the basil pesto and lemon basil cream:

Make the basil pesto. Throw the garlic and basil, along with a few pinches of salt and a couple grinds of pepper (to taste), into a food processor. Give it a whirl until everything is coarsely chopped. Add the toasted pine nuts, and process until chopped and combined. Drizzle in a 1/3 cup of olive oil, and process until fully incorporated and smooth (see photo). Set aside.

Make the lemon basil cream. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons crème fraiche, two tablespoons pesto, and one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Stir to combine, then set aside.

Once the peas are bright green and tender, remove the soup from the heat. Purée using an immersion blender (or in batches in a regular blender or food processor), until smooth. Once puréed, the soup will be a beautiful, vibrant green color (see photo). Add about 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice and 3 tablespoons basil pesto, a little at a time (to taste). Season with salt and pepper (to taste). If you’re using an immersion blender, blend everything together one more time—this will ensure that the pesto is well-incorporated, and that the soup is silky-smooth. If you feel that the soup is too thick, add a little more broth to reach your desired consistency.

Ladle the soup in bowls, and top with a dollop of the pesto lemon cream and a small handful of parmesan croutons. Bon Appétit!

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