This is one good-looking and delicious chilled soup. We could not stop eating it. A most excellent light and guilt-free appetizer for your summer nights. Serve it in martini glasses for guests – and it’s great for guests because there is a nice make-ahead trick. Also, you can pretend you’re in Spain because it’s from a super-awesome Spanish cookbook. What’s not to like?
CHILLED GREEN PEA SOUP WITH MINT, TARRAGON, BASIL AND GOAT CHEESE
Adapted from The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen
1 T. unsalted butter
5 T. fragrant extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling (bust out your best oil for the drizzling!)
2-3 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced (I also cleaned, sliced, and froze the green parts for leek and potato soup because that uses the green parts only… bonus! I’ll do that in the fall, stay tuned…)
2 c. chicken stock or both (you could use veggie broth instead, if you’re keeping this vegetarian)
3 c. water
3 1/2 c. frozen baby peas (from two 10-oz boxes), thawed
2 c. finely chopped iceberg lettuce (I know, I wasn’t expecting that either, but bear with it! Get your Vitamin K! – that’s the only thing I know about iceberg lettuce)
3 T. finely chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil
1/3 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/3 c. chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish
1/4 c. chopped fresh mint
5 oz. mild goat cheese or feta
Sea salt (such as Maldon) and freshly ground pepper
Equipment: Medium saute pan, large saucepan, large bowl, traditional blender or hand blender, food mill (optional)
The part you can make ahead: Melt the butter with 1 T of the olive oil in your medium saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and cook until soft but not browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add the stock/broth and 3 cups water, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and lettuce, and turn off the heat. Let cool and when it’s cool enough, transfer to the fridge. (At this point, you can refrigerate it overnight.)
Oops, I forgot to plan ahead: Keeping going? Once you add the peas and lettuce, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until veggies are bright green and tender, 3-4 minutes. Place a bowl in the sink and drain the vegetables over the bowl to save the cooking liquid. Run the veggies under cold water to stop the cooking process, then let everything (veg and liquid) cool.
Ready to serve: Place the cooked veg, cooking liquid, the remaining 4 T olive oil, all the herbs, and the goat or feta cheese in a large bowl and stir to combine. Working in two batches, puree in a blender until completely smooth and frothy, about 1 minute each batch. Don’t forget to add the salt & pepper to taste!
Additional refinements: The soup will be fantastic and full-bodied at this point, but if you want to make it even smoother, put it through a food mill (see photo). I am convinced the food mill needs a new marketing campaign because the name does not really describe what it does. It pushes your soup or sauce through a sieve (and you can pick how fine or coarse the sieve). Because have you ever put things in a sieve and they just sat there?! Fixed. So, I put this through the food mill and ended up with (a) very smooth and refined soup and (b) sort of a pea/feta hummus type of thing, which we ate on crackers. Win!
If you worked ahead, everything is already chilled at this point and you can serve it. Otherwise you might want to chill it a bit, then serve, garnished with a drizzle of your nicest olive oil, sprinkle of Maldon sea salt and pepper, additional chopped chives and a mint leaf or two. (I made the nice creamy squiggle with plain yogurt in a squirt bottle.)
Food mill in action (there’s a bowl underneath):