I guess the title of this post tells you a lot about where I’ve been lately. That is: in search of equilibrium while caffeine and sugar-induced songs run amok incessantly through my head. Somebody help. Please.
Traveling, missing routines, eating out and eating lots and lots of sugar (remind me not to do a baking story anytime soon) were the underpinnings of the out-of-controlness in this week full of highs and lows. But let’s cut to the chase. To the rescue: down-home food. Namely, the mundane but ever comforting split pea soup. Luckily, I made a big pot of it before the madness took hold and stashed portion size bowls of it in the freezer for emergencies. So, do as I did. Make this soup and when you come home from shopping, or when you have a baking day or just when you do what you need to do for the holidays, heat up a bowl or two, bake a few Parmesan crisps, pull out some really good Polish bread, put on some festive music and come down to earth with a bowl of soup. Yin-yang merrily on high.
Technically, I don’t think split peas are particularly yang—I’m no expert on the subject—but they are definitely a fine counterbalance to the sweets of the season. This vegetarian version has the unusual addition of parsnips. Sweet and some say, cloying, parsnips on their own are a bit hard to take, but with all the other vegetables they add a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, which is pretty exciting for such a humble soup. And if you are not of the vegetarian persuasion, go ahead and throw in a ham hock or two.
Vegetarian split pea soup with Parmesan crisps
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Small pinch Cayenne pepper
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
2. Mix Parmesan, thyme and pepper together in a small bowl. .
3. Using a tablespoon measure, spoon cheese mixture in mounds 3 inches apart on the baking sheet. Flatten with the back of the spoon. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheet until cool. Serve with the soup.
Split pea soup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 parsnips, sliced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/4 cups split peas (9 ounces)*
6 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1. Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, parsnips, onions, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes, or until the vegetables soften.
2. Add the peas and stock, and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and add more salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot, and simmer for 1 hour, or until peas are soft.
3. Puree the soup in a blender with the parsley until smooth. Return to the pot and reheat. Taste again for seasoning. Ladle hot soup into bowls and serve with Parmesan crisps.
*Green split peas are traditional, but you can also use yellow split peas (chana dal). I did not have enough of either one, so used both in this soup (hence the yellow-ish tint.)