Spring Pea Soup

>>  Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Spring Pea Soup
Yes, I know it's not spring yet.  And the snow we've been getting lately seems to indicate that spring is nowhere nearby.  Yet the weather has been getting a little warmer lately, and guess what? It's already March!   Time really flies.  Christmas really felt like just yesterday.

I whipped this up tonight because I wanted vegetables for dinner yet I was too hungry and tired to stop by a supermarket.  Instead I supported my local tiny urban convenience store and picked up 2 packages of frozen peas.

I like this soup because it's so simple yet so flexible at the same time.  Unlike its cousin, the hearty split-pea soup, this soup is light, fresh, and totally reminds me of spring.  You can really taste the natural sweetness of the peas, which I love.
1 onion - sliced
2 packages of frozen peas
4-8 strips of bacon
1 cup broth (or water)
Cook bacon over medium-low heat in a skillet until the bacon is nice and crispy (6-10 minutes).  Remove the bacon.  Pour off most of the bacon fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan.  Saute the onions in the bacon fat until the onions are soft and slightly browned (about 15 minutes).  Add peas and 1 cup of broth and cook at medium heat until the peas are soft (about 5 minutes).  Blend with a hand blender, and salt to taste.
Bacon is optional, but it really adds a nice crunch and smokiness to the dish.  Crumble the bacon and sprinkle on top of the soup.  This can also be enjoyed chilled.
The secret to keeping the pea soup this gorgeous bright green color?  Just a touch of acid (Vitamin C!) to prevent oxidation (which leads to browning) from occurring. I threw in a splash of lemon juice.  You can also crush up a Vitamin C tablet and throw it in after you've blended the peas.  For a nerdy science lesson, scroll to the bottom.  :)

I would treat this "recipe" more as a guide than an actual recipe.  I personally did not actually measure out anything.  You can play around with this recipe.  Try using different broths, or different aromatics.  I bet shallots or leeks would also taste good.  You can also experiment with herbs, such as mint, basil, or parsley.  Some people like add heavy cream, which makes it less spring-like, but still delicious in a very different way.  Experiment!  And have fun.  :)

Nerdy Science Lesson
Many fruits and vegetables can turn brown upon contact with oxygen because of certain "defense" compounds (1- and 2- ring phenolic compounds) in the plant's cells.  When the cell wall is bruised, the phenolic compounds escape, reacting with plant enzymes and oxygen.  You can reduce or eliminate browning either by 1) killing the enzymes (boiling/high heat) 2) chilling the food below 40° F, 4° C to slow down the oxidation or 3) Adding a bit of acid to slow down the oxidation process.  Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) inhibits browning in two ways.  It's a strong reducing agent (undo-ing the oxidation that's occuring) and it's also an anti-oxidant, scooping up oxygen so it can't react with the phenols in the plant.

This post is being submitted for a chance to win Foodbuzz's BACONALIA challenge
Fresh Pea Soup on Foodista

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