Wednesday, September 28, 2005

IMBB #19: Split pea soup

In this edition of Is My Blog Burning? (hosted by B&P) food bloggers are challenged to cook a vegan dish or meal and further invited to trick someone into eating it. Alas, there are no secrets in my kitchen. I didn't pull any fast ones. But I did cook myself a lunch which just happens to contain no meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or dairy.

In my vegetarian days I cooked my way through the Moosewood cookbook and it took care of me pretty well for a while. Now it's jammed into the deepest recess of the cookbook nook, so inaccessible that I hardly ever even think about it. But when I opened it up this morning, the first split pea soup I ever made was right there on page 17 and I felt instantly forgiven for having ignored it for so long. Split pea is one of my favorites and I always look forward to it when the weather turns chilly. Last winter I made some in the Québécois style, with a huge smoked ham hock. It was rather porky and E didn't care for it. I liked it fine but I think split pea can be just as good or better meat-free.

Still, I have always found the Moosewood version to be not quite right. It is plenty hearty but not explosive with flavor. So this time I tried a few modifications and my tweaking worked really well.

I began with some split peas, which I rinsed several times to get the dust off them. I covered these in cold water, brought it to a boil, and added salt, two bay leaves, and a tsp of dry mustard. After a little while, I added sliced carrots and celery and a starchy potato cut into small pieces.

I left the pot to simmer away for about an hour while I was working.

When the peas were fully cooked through and the veggies quite soft, I set aside about two cups of the soup in a bowl and pureed the rest with an immersion blender to make a totally smooth puree. (The Moosewood doesn't call for pureeing it at all.)

Next I returned the reserved two cups of chunky soup to the pot so that there would be some bits odiscerniblele peas, carrots, and spuds.

Now comes my best tweak. Instead of cooking garlic and onions in the water with the other veggies, I decided to take a page out of Indian cooking and use a tarka, a seasoning method used in making dal. I got this idea when ioccurreded to me that split peas basically are dal and split pea soup a western version of a staple dish eaten across south Asia. I heated up a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet and when it was hot, threw in three cloves of garlic, finely minced, and a shallot, sliced.

These sizzled for only about ten seconds before I dumped the tarka into the soup, stirred it quickly, covered the pot, and let it sit off the heat for about five minutes. Indian cooks insist on this step, believing it helps the flavors to infuse the whole dish. After five minutes, I lifted the cover, stirred, tasted, added some salt and pepper, and pronounced my soup ready to eat. This way of punching up the flavor works really well, giving the dish more of a bite that it would have otherwise.

The Moosewood calls for the addition of vinegar at the end; I sampled the soup, it tasted great, and I decided to forego it. It also calls for optional garnishes of parsley, fresh tomato, and sesame oil. I had a few better ideas. I served my split pea soup garnished with little oyster crackers, thick bits of lemon zest, and a few drops of hot chile oil. I washed it down with a cold Dr. Pepper.

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Blogger tanvi said...

Mmm I love split pea soup- your rendition looks lovely!

1:00 AM  
Blogger mzn said...

Thanks, tanvi. You have a lovely veggieblog.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Sarah (the headhunter) said...

That looks...divine. I love split pea soup, but have never had it without ham. I think I'll have to give it a try. The cold weather brings out the need for hearty soups like this.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

what a great idea
i agree with the puereeing and adding the 'tarka-topping' is ingenious, that's always what makes the tarka dhal so delicious. I think I might try this out in one of my healthier moments this winter.

thanks for taking part in IMBB19


2:38 PM  

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