Earlier this spring I catered a function for Artist Trust (a local organization here in Seattle dedicated to supporting artists). I have worked with them for many years, and I view every event as an opportunity to be creative. I always try to pay attention to detail and presentation, and knowing the guests at Artist Trust events are inspired by beautiful things, I try to make sure the well-presented food lives up to their artistic expectations.
The host for this particular event was avoiding eggs, gluten, and soy, so as I developed a menu featuring spring produce, fresh pea soup seemed like the perfect solution. Not only is it gorgeous, but the flavors are fresh and bright too.
I adapted this recipe from the April/May 2000 issue of Fine Cooking magazine. What makes this extra delicious is the home-made pea broth, which is quite easy and I highly recommend taking the extra step.
Peas are just starting to pop up in my home garden, but they have been available at local farmers markets for several weeks now. If you cannot get fresh peas, you can always use frozen.
Fresh Pea Soup
Yields 5½ cups
2 large leeks (white parts plus the pale green), quartered and sliced to yield 2 cups (or 2 cups chopped scallions or 2 cups thinly sliced white onion)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons white basmati rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt; more to taste
4 sprigs fresh cilantro; more for garnish (optional)
4 cups vegetable stock (or homemade or low-salt chicken broth)
1½ to 2 lbs. fresh peas, shucked (to yield 1½ to 2 cups)
4 cups lightly packed coarsely chopped spinach leaves, thick stems removed
7 oz. coconut milk (half a can, or about 1 cup)
Freshly ground white pepper
Soak the leeks in a bowl of cold water to remove any grit. Meanwhile, in a soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter and stir in the rice.
Scoop the leeks from the water, shaking off excess, and add them to the pot along with the curry powder, salt, cilantro, and 1 cup of the stock or broth. Cook over medium-low heat at a vigorous simmer for about 12 minutes, so the rice is almost done.
Add the remaining 3 cups stock or broth, the peas, and the spinach, and bring to a boil. Boil for about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the coconut milk.
In a blender or a food processor, purée the soup in batches until smooth (vent the lid and hold a folded dish towel over it). Taste for salt, season with white pepper, and serve, garnished with fresh cilantro leaves. (If you prefer a soup with more texture, purée 1 cup and return it to the pot, season, garnish, and serve.)
Since the menu for the event at which I was serving the soup was all bite-sized, passed items, I opted to serve the soup in shot glasses. Any small (approximately 2 ounces) dishes will serve the same purpose. Another good way to serve this is in tea cups. For a garnish, I used a dollop of crème fraîche in the center of each glass.