On trying to recreate the feeling of eating spring

On a fine spring day a couple years ago, I met Michael Bierut for lunch at the Century Association. It was my first visit, and for once in my life I arrived early. After offering up my coat, I stood off to the side of the grand entryway, trying to pretend I knew what to do with my hands.

Michael was a wonderful host, offering a tour of the draperied rooms, pointing out the paintings 18th century members donated in lieu of the dues they couldn’t afford, and finally leading the way to our waiting table, where I had English pea soup that tasted like a bowlful of spring. I don’t remember my sandwich at all, so eclipsed was it by this verdurous appetizer (and, afterward, by the famed almond macaroons).

The pea soup I made yesterday, using a recipe from Michele Scicolone’s The Italian Slow Cooker, pales (literally and gastronomically) by comparison, but it’s still not a bad way to celebrate the season. Next time I think I’ll substitute chicken or vegetable stock for some of the water, and maybe add a little cream toward the end.

Fresh Pea Soup

1 medium onion, chopped,
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2 pounds fresh peas, shelled
1 medium celery rib, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
3 ounces thickly sliced prosciutto, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a medium skillet, cook the onion in the oil over medium heat until very tender and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the mint leaves and stir well. Scrape the mixture into the slow cooker. Add the peas, celery, carrot, and prosciutto. Add water to cover by 1 inch. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours, or until the vegetables are soft. Let cool slightly. Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender [I used a hand mixer], in batches, if necessary [not necessary]. Gently reheat the soup, if needed, and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, sprinkled with the cheese.

If you have any suggestions for improvement, or a favorite springtime dish of your own, add ’em in the comments.

Too bad it’s supposed to get cold again this weekend. I have an overabundance of citrus in the fridge and had been planning to make that grapefruit and avocado salad from The Art of Simple Food and eat it with Max on the terrace, or at least to enjoy a couple of Kingsley Amis’ salty dogs while watching the sun go down.


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