Split Pea Soup with Garlic Croutons

So, this January in New York has been perhaps the most bitterly and unforgivingly cold one I’ve had since I moved to the city–and we’re only eight days in. Maybe it’s lucky, then, that I am starting the new year off working full-time from home. That’s right; no more office for the time being. Just me and my computer. The bad thing for me about this new situation is that it’s making it ridiculously hard to be disciplined about staying on task. Today I managed to be really good. I got up, had a bagel and coffee, showered, and went straight to Starbucks, where I pounded away at my keyboard until a woman sat next to me at the counter who smelled unmistakeably of cat food and I had to leave.

The past few days before this, however, were not quite as productive–mainly because I’ve been sick and have been living in a nyquil-induced haze. In fact, in the last forty-eight hours, my major achievements have included doing my laundry, listening to every Wilco album in succession (including the two Billy Bragg collaborations) and making three trips to Whole Foods.  Luckily, when you combine feeling sick + cold weather + overabundant groceries, you can sometimes emerge with something really tasty to make the pain go away, like this split pea soup.

About a month ago, I bought a couple of bags of dried split peas on a whim, but December was really busy at work and I found myself eating a lot of pasta and takeout. Then Christmas came, and my parents were really generous with the cookbook gifts, one of which was the Veselka cookbook. Now, I totally thought I would have made some serious pierogies by now, but instead I gravitated towards the soup recipes–I had everything I needed to make their split pea soup, and then some. Using the Veselka recipe as a base, I made a few modifications to the recipe to punch up the flavor and added some homemade garlic croutons. Here’s what I came up with:

Split Pea Soup:

  • 2 tablespoons butter (unsalted!)
  • 2 carrots, finely grated
  • 3 stalks celery, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cups dried split peas, rinsed and picked over
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 2-ish cups water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Garlic croutons:

  • Some leftover stale bread (I used the end of a baguette that my friend Margaret brought by two days before)
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed and peeled

First, rinse and pick over the split peas. I wasn’t really sure what to look for, but basically I took out the peas that were off-color and any stray husks (gross). The thing to watch out for is that when you set them aside they will inevitably bind themselves together into what looks like the fake food you play with as a kid. It will look like a big, congealed mess of fake peas. Oh well.

Next, get your vegetables going. In a big stock pot, melt the two tablespoons of butter and add the carrots, celery, and onion. Saute for about five minutes and then add the garlic (so it doesn’t burn and get bitter) and saute for another few minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Then add the stock, split peas, and additional water. Bring the soup up to a boil, and then turn the heat down to low and simmer  until the peas are to your desired texture. For me this took about an hour and 15 minutes.  One thing to keep in mind is that the peas will sink to the bottom and potentially burn on the bottom of the pot, so make sure you stir the soup from time to time, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot as you go. Season with salt and pepper (I went pretty generously on the pepper) and voila.

For the croutons: Preheat your oven to 300. I was using a baguette that was pretty thin to begin with, so I just cut it into rounds. If you’re using a bigger piece of bread, you might want to cut it into cubes. Rub the bread all over with your smashed clove of garlic. Then spread the bread pieces out on a baking sheet and let it bake for between 20-30 minutes, or until dry and light brown. Check after the first ten minutes and turn over the pieces with a spatula so they can cook evenly.

Then garnish your soup with the croutons!

Honestly, I think the croutons made the soup–as did the added fat provided by the dollop of sour cream I put on top! It was really tasty and comforting, perfect for a cold January day.

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