What is it about pea soup that causes such a strong reaction? Is it the flavor? The color? The texture?
I enjoy the homey flavor of split pea soup, thick and hearty, warming me up on a winter day from the inside out. But to be honest, I remember the nightmare of being presented with a bowl of green slop for dinner—I didn’t like anything about it, especially the taste.
I love it now, along with all those other things I thought were disgusting—eggplant, zucchini, escarole, dark chocolate, coffee (I write this as I take a sip of my dark roast Café Verona… Mmmm). In fact, the things that I hated most are now some of my favorites. I guess there really is a thin line between love and hate.
I love to love foods that I used to hate. It’s like getting to know people you thought were prickly or odd—their unusual traits become their most endearing.
This logic has led me to a theory: The haters just need to get to know split peas a little better.
First off, they’re full of protein, iron, potassium, folate, B-vitamins, and magnesium. They’re also a good source of soluble fiber, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels. This fiber fills you up, and keeps you satiated longer. They’re even considered an excellent source of molybdenum, and who doesn’t want that? (What’s molybdenum, you ask? I don’t know, but with a name like Molybdenum, it has to be good for you!). They’re even adorable, all green and perfect little half spheres.
As for practicality, split peas keep in the cabinet for months. When a chilly day rolls along (or a blizzard), you just take out the bag of split peas and add some vegetables you probably already have home. In a few hours you have dinner! It’s easy, quick to prepare, and ridiculously inexpensive.
Split peas are also historical. If you cook with dried beans/peas/legumes/ pulses, you know how it works. And you know people have been doing it for generations. There’s something magical about preparing a traditional meal; in taking your place in a long line of humans that stretches back to Greek and Roman times (or before), all checking their dried legumes for stones, rinsing them, and simmering them in water or broth until they become tender.
If you haven’t cooked with split peas before, you should!
Pea soup is also a meal that fits with a healthier attitude for the new year. The only ingredients in this recipe are split peas, vegetables, and vegetable broth. You can’t get much more plant-based than that.
When you make your own split pea soup—or any soup—you have control over the sodium content. If you’re watching your sodium level be sure to buy low sodium broth, or better yet—make your own. You can also refrain from adding salt while cooking the soup; only add it after you’ve tasted it in your bowl.
If you have time, serve this soup with a salad. Tomatoes, bell peppers, or some other vitamin C-rich food will help your body absorb the iron. Round it off with a loaf of crusty bread, freshly toasted in the oven if you have time, and you’re done. I like to buy the French bread that’s wrapped in plastic at Target or Joe Caputo’s. I throw a few loaves in the freezer, and when I need one, I unwrap it, pop it in the oven (right on the rack) for ten minutes or so on 375˚, for a nice crusty, steamy side.
This is another one of those slow cooker dishes you can assemble the night before. In the morning, put the crock in the slow cooker and program it to be ready for dinner. You’ll be welcomed at dinnertime with the homey scent of pea soup filling your house with warmth.
As with most soups, the flavor improves the second day, and it freezes well. If you have leftovers, consider portioning it out into single-serving freezer containers. My sister-in-law Lisa does this, and I’m always pea green with envy to see her plethora of choices, stacked neatly on her freezer shelves. My friend Kyle has her own method—she fills freezer bags with soup, freezes them flat, then stores them upright, so she has a bookshelf of soups to choose from.
All I am saying is give pea soup a chance.
Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
1 Package dried split peas, checked for stones and rinsed
3 Celery ribs, chopped small
3 Carrots, chopped small
1 Large onion, chopped small
1 Potato, chopped small
¼ tsp. thyme
½ tsp basil
½ tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 Clove garlic, smashed
1 Bay leaf
6 Cups vegetable broth or water (7 cups for stove top method)
Fresh parsley (optional)
Check split peas and remove any stones. Rinse in a colander.
Slow cooker: Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Set to cook on low for 8 – 10 hours or high for 4 – 6 hours.
Stove top: Place all ingredients in a pot on the stove, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until split peas are tender, approximately 3 hours.
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