Hearty Split Pea Soup

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg | Image: Laura Messersmith

I originally wrote this post pre November 8th and couldn’t bring myself to publish it until now. I honestly felt silly writing about food and cooking after such a disappointing and troubling election outcome (understatement.) But, we will need nourishment for the struggle and if any recipe could offer that it’s this one. So without further apology…

It’s beginning to feel more and more wintery – the wind is whipping, the wool sweater brigade is in full effect, and I’ve found myself Pinning holiday ideas even though the Halloween candy hasn’t been distributed. While in some ways I wish I could hold off the really frigid part of winter, there’s something so cozy about a blustery, wet day.

I’d love to return home to a fire crackling away, but since our apartment doesn’t run to wood-burning fire places (probably for the best) instead I’ve been on the hunt for new soups and stews to lend that necessary warmth. I’ve been scouring the Bon Appetit archives and finding so many treasures that I think my cookbook collection is starting to feel neglected. So be it, because this soup is too good to keep to myself.

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg | Image: Laura Messersmith

The humble combination of green split peas and potatoes are elevated by a rich blend of onions, leeks, and garlic; and studded with bits of smoky ham. It’s a healthful, satisfying dish that rewards the patient cook, but amazingly requires minimal hands-on time. As with other slow-cooked recipes, this soup only grows in power overnight, so make extra.

Full disclosure: the first time I made this recipe I completely misjudged the amount of liquid needed and ended up with more of a split pea hash than soup. I was afraid that I had completely ruined a perfectly good soup, but a quick taste revealed that the flavors were wonderful and tasted even better when topped with a fried egg. Highly recommend this approach when serving!

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg | Image: Laura Messersmith

Hearty Split Pea Soup (serves 6-8)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup (1 medium) chopped onion
1 cup (2 medium) chopped leeks, white and pale-green parts only
1/2 cup (2 stalks) chopped celery
2 tablespoons (4 cloves) minced garlic
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cups (2 medium) small diced Yukon Gold potatoes
1/3 pound (1 cup) minced smoked ham
8 fresh thyme stems
2 bay leaves
2 cups (16 ounces) dried green split peas
8 cups (32 ounces) chicken broth

Instructions:
Prepare the vegetables, chopping the onion, leeks, and celery into fine dice and mincing the cloves of garlic.

In a large French oven, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the vegetables and sauté for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent. Season with a sprinkle of kosher salt, about 1/2 teaspoon.

Meanwhile, wash the potatoes and cut into small dice (no need to remove the skins!) and finely mince the ham. Add the potatoes and the minced ham to the pot and cook for 8-10 minutes until the potatoes begin to soften. Season with another 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper.

Tie the thyme stems together with kitchen twine (it will make them easier to remove later) and add to the pot along with the bay leaves, dried split peas, and chicken broth.

Increase the temperature to medium-high and bring the soup up to a low boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours stirring occasionally to keep the soup from burning or sticking. The soup is ready when the potatoes are very soft and have begun to break down and thicken the broth. Check the seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems. Serve with toasted rye croutons, a dollop of sour cream, a fried egg, or parmesan toast.

Small Kitchen Friendly?
100%. I used a large French oven (5.5qt), a chef’s knife, medium cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, along with a flat sided wooden spoon. That’s it!

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg | Image: Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

After an odd few days of 80 degree temperatures in New York we’re back to the weather I associate most with late October. Weather more in the vein of “a dark and stormy night” full of windy breezes that swirl the leaves and pulse with energy straight from Ghostbusters.

It’s days like today that absolutely call for something simple, warming, and earthy. A dinner that calls to mind the safety of hearth and home; simmering merrily on the stovetop through the afternoon then bringing family to gather around the table. As written this is a dish reminiscent of a Tuscan stew – creamy beans, bright lemon, leafy spinach – but with a bit more chicken stock could easily translate into a wintery soup. Even better? With just a quick swap in of vegetable stock for the broth you’ll have a fantastic main course that I’d be proud to serve to any vegetarian.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

Stews always improve with a bit of time to think about what they’ve done, and so this is also a dish that I would absolutely make extras of and squirrel away in the freezer for use this winter when something cozy is just the ticket. Perfect with a slice of crusty bread toasted and rubbed with garlic or a sprinkle of parmesan melted on top.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach (serves: 8)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups dried cannellini beans
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise; plus 2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 sage leaves
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 bunches mature spinach, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions:
Place the dried beans in a large French oven or bowl and cover with double the amount of water. Cover and allow to soak for 16-24 hours at room temperature.

Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Bring beans, head of garlic, sage, 3 tablespoonsolive oil, and 6 cups chicken broth to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and simmer gently until beans are creamy all the way through but skins are still intact, 35–45 minutes. Some of the beans will break down slightly and thicken the broth. Let cool while you move onto the spinach.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large deep sauté pan over medium. Cook crushed garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring, just until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Working in batches, add spinach, letting it wilt slightly before adding more, and cook, tossing often, until leaves are just wilted, about 5 minutes; season with salt.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer beans to sauté pan with spinach and cook, tossing gently, until beans are warmed through. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup bean cooking liquid and toss, adding more cooking liquid if needed, until coated. The mixture should be closer to a sauce than a soup in consistency. Be careful not to over cook or the beans will begin to break down. Taste and season with salt as needed. Serve drizzled with oil and a slice of toasted crusty bread.

Do Ahead: Beans can be cooked 3 days ahead. Keep in cooking liquid; cover and chill. Cook spinach and seasonings when ready to serve.

Re-written and lightly adapted from Bon Appetit’s Cannellini Beans with Spinach by Rita Sodi & Jody Williams.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a 6 qt. French oven, large deep sauté pan, fine mesh sieve, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, liquid measuring cup, slotted spoon, microplane grater, and measuring spoons.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

Roasted Vegetable Soup

Roasted Vegetable Soup  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Roasted Vegetable Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Barefoot Classics”

The Set-up: Ina is revisiting some favorite recipes from her years running The Barefoot Contessa specialty food shop.

The Menu: Easy Sticky Buns, Mustard Chicken Salad, Roasted Vegetable Soup

0:53 – A quick overview of the Barefoot Contessa days, and then it’s on to Ina’s new version of the sticky buns they used to make.

1:20 – These are called Easy Sticky Buns and already I can tell that they’re going to be dead simple, no yeast dough required. Instead it’s defrosted puff pastry.

2:34 – Ina says when she first thought of using puff pastry, she was worried that they might not be as good as the original, but now she thinks they’re even better, which is convenient…

3:15 – So far the ingredients have been butter, sugar, pecans and puff pastry so we’re off to a great start.

4:37 – Note to self: make more puff pastry-based items.

5:09 – Buns are assembled and baked which means it’s time to cue Jeffrey to arrive and try to abscond with as many sticky buns as he can. His allotment on camera: one.

6:42 – I’m not sure it’s possible to eat a sticky bun without ending up a little sticky and so far it’s getting the best of Jeffrey.

9:03 – Moving on to the promised Mustard Chicken Salad. Interesting, I didn’t realize that this would actually be a salad, with cherry tomatoes and broccoli

10:46 – Hmm, blanching and shocking are not my favorite techniques – kind of a pain

11:21 – Ina says she like the flavor but not the texture of mayonnaise, so she always thins it a bit with chicken stock or white wine to make more of a sauce.

12:55 – I’ve used Ina’s technique of roasting the chicken for chicken salad before and it’s really really good. Pro Tip #1: Roasting chicken with the bone-in and skin on keeps the meat really moist.

13:59 – She says they used to make “huge vats” of Mustard Chicken Salad – I wonder if she’s having a traumatic flashback.

14:04 – A little tarragon to add another layer of flavor and it’s time to serve! Ina suspects that Jeffrey will remember where this is from…’

18:27 – Ina says they used to make “millions and millions of pounds” of roasted vegetables and that she can’t really think of any vegetable that isn’t better cooked that way.

19:48 – She’s over at the farm stand and decides to get a combination of root vegetables – sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots and a butternut squash.

20:10 – Pro Tip #2: Cut all the vegetables in similar sizes so that they roast at the same rate.

21:29 – It’s comforting to watch Ina wrangle a butternut squash and realize that it’s tricky even for a seasoned professional!

22:36 – She’s roasting the vegetables at quite a high temperature: 425 degrees.

23:01 – Pro Tip #3: If you’re serving the vegetables as is, put them all in big groupings on one platter and season individually. The parnsips get sea salt, carrots get parsley, sweet potato gets a drizzle of maple syrup, and the butternut squash gets fresh pepper.

27:45 – Ina says the key to turning a profit in the specialty food business is knowing how to use the leftovers and in her case she wants them to taste better than the original dish.

28:14 – In this case, she’s turning the left over vegetables into Roasted Vegetable Soup and some extra brioche bread into croutons.

29:53 – The soup is pureed, croutons are toasted and Jeffrey has arrived to have dinner. So cozy!

Final Thoughts:
I’m dying to make the sticky buns, but the contrarian in me wants to fuss with the whole yeast dough process….

Ina’s point about leftovers certainly holds true at home too, and why waste perfectly delicious food?

It just occurred to me, if Jeffrey eats well now imagine the BC days when there was an entire shop full of freshly prepared items.

Roasted Vegetable Soup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Roasted Vegetable Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I’ve roasted vegetables and made soup many times before, but Roasted Vegetable Soup is the ultimate in my book: a pureed soup based on a variety of roasted vegetables sounded amazing. Here’s what I learned.

Vegetable Prep – Time to get familiar with your peeler and chef’s knife! We’ve talked about this before, but this is a great opportunity to practice your knife skills and take care to cut the pieces a consistent size. It will help the outcome of the soup since the recipe calls for roasting different vegetables simultaneously.

Vegetable Roasting Time – Which brings me to my next point. Ina in her infinite wisdom has selected dense vegetables that all roast at the same temperature for the same length of time. Brilliant. As I’ve cooked more and more I’ve internalized the cooking times, but it’s always helpful to have a reference handy – so I put together the chart below.

Flavor Combination – The recipe calls for carrots, butternut squash, parsnips, and sweet potatoes to be roasted and then pureed together. I wondered if in the end it would be too sweet, but actually the flavors blend beautifully and the crisp croutons make a great counter point to the smooth soup. Lovely in its simplicity.

Roasted Vegetable Soup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Roasted Vegetable Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes. I used a large cutting board, vegetable peeler, chef’s knife and large spoon to prep the vegetables. I also needed two rimmed baking sheets (aluminum foil or parchment paper optional), a spatula, 5.5 qt French oven, and a blender. A food processor, food mill, or stick blender would work just fine too.

The Verdict:
Roasted Vegetable Soup is perfect for late fall. We had it for a weekend lunch served with a green salad and a few pieces of cheddar cheese and crisp apple slices for a hearty and satisfying meal. I went with multigrain croutons for a rustic touch instead of brioche or challah. Either way, this soup is simple, healthful, and easy to whip up a big batch to have on hand or to make use of leftover odds and ends. It’s also a gorgeous color and would make an excellent starter for a more formal Thanksgiving feast.

Roasted Vegetable Soup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Roasted Vegetable Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

goldfinch and scout guide to roasting vegetables

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Italian Wedding Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Food with Love”

The Set-up: Ina and Jeffrey are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary with a special dinner and a trip down memory lane.

The Menu: Italian Wedding Soup, Brownie Pudding, Campari Orange Spritzer

0:42 – Ina is full of plans for her 40th wedding anniversary with Jeffrey, who true to form is stuck at work so it’s up to Ina to get the preparations under way.

1:18 – First up: Brownie Pudding. Brownies have a special place in the Garten relationship since Ina used to send them to Jeffrey at college.

2:33 – The recipe comes from Ina’s friend Anna Pump who owns a store called Loaves and Fishes, and wrote a cookbook, which I will now add to my Christmas list…

3:25 – Pro Tip #1: a tablespoon of framboise in the pudding mixture will add a subtle depth of unexpected flavor.

4:12 – Ina has apparently been getting some flack for her butter usage, but she is firmly pro-butter maintaining that “anyone who tries to make brownies without butter should be arrested!”

5:40 – Interesting, this is a pudding baked in a water bath so that it cooks very slowly and Ina says it can be made ahead of time.

6:06 – Oooh, Jeffrey has claimed he has to work but it’s all a cover for a romantic mission to locate a tent similar to the one they had on their camping trip through France. That is 1,000 brownie points (pun intended) in the making!

7:19 – We’re back with Ina as she talks us through the different liqueurs she uses in cooking and baking – framboise, coffee, cognac, it’s all quite boozy.

9:37 – On to the Italian Wedding Soup which Ina is making with chicken instead of beef or another red meat.

10:28 – A fun fact and Pro Tip #2: Using fresh bread crumbs will make the meatballs softer than dry bread crumbs.

11:51 – Ina is seasoning the meatballs with parsley, garlic and a combination of both parmesan and pecorino cheese. I’m surprised that she’s not doing her usual technique of grinding the cheese in the food processor.

12:14 – Can I just say how excited I am that these meatballs are baked not cooked in oil on the stovetop?!

13:39 – A quick check in with Jeffrey as he seeks out the tent. Alas, it won’t be very much like the original orange pup tent, but he’s assured by the proprietor that even a child could set it up. Sold.

14:43 – Moving on with the Italian Wedding Soup, it’s time to prep the vegetables to season the stock. Ina says as she chops that she doesn’t know the secret to a good marriage – she and Jeffrey just want each other to be happy. Simple.

18:56 – Vegetables are softened and now it’s time to add the chicken stock and a little white wine.

19:32 – A few more words of reflection from Ina – she says Jeffrey is the smartest person she knows, but that she balances him out by being “the practical one.”

20:07 – Well, now the absent minded professor is out in the backyard with the tent. Here goes nothing… He’s doing an excellent job of getting tangled up in the nylon shell. It’s close enough and that he better get back to his desk before Ina checks on him.

21:25 – Now for some cocktails. Campari Orange Spritzer with fresh orange juice and bitter liquor. Ina is going to bring one to Jeffrey and I bet after his struggles with the tent he could use a drink…

22:40 – He makes it just in time, she comes in the library just as he sits down at his desk. A split second later and he’d be caught!

23:58 – With the cocktails is a DVD trip down memory lane compliments of the production team splicing together some I+J greatest hits from past shows. They are just so darn cute!

26:16 – Back to put the finishing touches on the Italian Wedding Soup, meatballs are in, now some fresh herbs.

27:21 – I love with idea of wilting baby spinach into the soup at the last minute, I bet that tastes really fresh and wonderful. Ina isn’t kidding about this being a soup worthy of the main course.

28:35 – Ina says making Italian Wedding Soup is “corny,” but I think it’s so sweet. Embrace the corn! Brownie Pudding with ice cream is next and Jeffrey suggests having dessert outside… It’s surprise time….

29:48 – Ina can’t believe that Jeffrey put the tent together and they decide they should climb in and have dessert there. So much giggling and then the clincher: “If this tent be a rocking, don’t come a knocking.”

Final Thoughts:
I should try Campari sometime, it seems like it would be right up my alley.

I love Ina’s take on Italian Wedding Soup – it seems simultaneously more satisfying and lighter than the traditional version.

Oh Ina and Jeffrey, the two of them are just too much!

Italian Wedding Soup  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Italian Wedding Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I’ve made meatballs and I’ve made chicken soup, but never together and I was really curious to see how the process would work. Also, Italian Wedding Soup sounded like the perfect weekend dinner, so there’s that. Here’s what I learned…

Meatball Ingredients – I was a little worried about finding both ground chicken and chicken sausage and decided that pork sausage would be my back up plan, but thankfully both seem readily available in my grocery store. Bread crumbs are a different story – some stores sell bags of fresh bread crumbs in the bakery section but if those aren’t available and you don’t have a food processor, then use dried plain crumbs and add a bit more milk, starting with a tablespoon or two.

Meatball Mixing – Like with a cake, I’d recommend mixing the dry ingredients - breadcrumbs, cheese, and seasonings - together before adding the wet ingredients – ground meat, milk, and egg. I find that the mixture comes together more evenly and helps prevent over mixing. A fork is definitely the way to go to keep the meatballs light; a dense meatball is no one’s friend.

Portioning – Forty meatballs in 10 cups of broth, plus vegetables and pasta seemed like a lot especially because pasta tends to absorb a lot of moisture. So, I halved the meatball ingredients, but kept everything else in the recipe as written. When measured with a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop I yielded 24 meatballs which was perfect.

Vegetable Prep – Completely up to your preference, but I cut my vegetables slightly larger than called for in the recipe because I like them to keep their shape and still be firm after cooking. I also sorted through the fresh baby spinach and trimming off any slightly browning or particularly long stems. Much nicer to eat that way!

Pasta – I subbed Ditalini because it was the smallest pasta I could find. The only note here is to make sure to read the package directions for cooking time, especially if you’re using something else.

Italian Wedding Soup  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Italian Wedding Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes and no. It depends on whether you plan to make your own bread crumbs, if so then you’ll also need a mini food processor. At the minimum, I needed a large mixing bowl, two rimmed baking sheets, and a 5.5 qt French oven. I also used a medium cutting board, chef’s knife, tongs, a microplane grater, and a wooden spatula along with measuring cups and parchment paper. A 1 tablespoon cookie scoop isn’t essential, but will make portioning the meatballs much easier.

The Verdict:
Featuring meatballs and pasta I expected Italian Wedding Soup to fall firmly in the category of comfort food, and was surprised to discover that the chicken broth and vegetables actually make this soup quite fresh. The meatballs set the tone balancing depth of flavor from the sausage and cheeses against lean chicken, baking them instead of sautéing in oil – the results are light but satisfying. This soup is also one that can be made in stages as needed. I prepared everything up to the point of cooking the pasta one day, stored the meatballs and soup separately and finished assembling just before we were ready to eat. Perfect.

Italian Wedding Soup  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Italian Wedding Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith