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Monday, April 11, 2011

The Chives Are Up!

According to the calendar, spring began several weeks ago. But it wasn’t until yesterday when I found chives peeking through my herb garden’s dry New England soil that I felt the new season had truly arrived. Seeing those slim little stems reaching up from the earth was enough to inspire me to get out Sunday Soup, a book I authored a few years ago, in search of the recipe for Sweet Pea Soup with Early Chives.

I found it on page 99, and had a pot simmering on my stovetop by 9 AM. It took only 45 minutes from start to finish, and made a perfect lunch for the trio of assistants who spent the day helping me prep for an upcoming cooking class.

A rich verdant green and silky smooth, this potage is simplicity itself. Sautéed leeks and peas (both fresh or frozen work beautifully) are simmered in chicken stock for several minutes until tender, pureed, and then enriched with sour cream. Seasonings of nutmeg and cayenne pepper add more flavor. And, those chives!  Well, they are sprinkled on top of each serving along with dollops of sour cream. In addition to providing a lively color accent and a mild peppery taste, they are a reminder that spring is definitely here!

Sweet Pea Soup with Early Chives

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (about 3 medium leeks)
5 cups fresh peas or frozen peas, patted dry (see note)
1 medium Yukon Gold potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more if needed
5 1/2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup sour cream, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped chives 

Heat butter in a medium pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add leeks and sauté, stirring until softened, for about 4 minutes. Add peas, potatoes, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook and stir a few seconds more. Add stock and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook at a gentle simmer until vegetables are very tender, for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Puree the soup in a food processor, blender, or food mill, and return the soup to the pot. (Or use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot.) Whisk in 1/2 cup sour cream. Then whisk in the nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Use 1/8 teaspoon cayenne for a milder taste, 1/4 teaspoon for more heat. Taste soup and season with salt, as needed. (Soup can be made 1 day ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, over medium-low heat.)

Ladle soup into 6 soup bowls and garnish the center of each serving with a dollop of the remaining sour cream and a sprinkle of chives.  Serves 6  

At the Market Note: Two and a half 10-ounce packages frozen peas will yield approximately 5 cups.  
From Sunday Soup (Chronicle Books 2008)

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