Split Pea Soup

Green food– apparently the bane of every young child’s existence. For me, it was a day that lived in infamy when my babysitter decided to make us a “special treat” for St. Patrick’s Day by dyeing our mac n’ cheese green. All the toddler children in her care, me included, took one look and universally broke out in a chorus of horrified wails.

For John, it was split pea soup. When his mom would make it, he would apparently whine about how he “didn’t want to eat green soup,” a request apparently loudly and frequently made throughout the soup making process. His mother gave in and made some chicken noodle soup as his alternative, but awesomely, his sister Sharon got to it first and apparently dyed it with green food coloring before serving it to him with flourish. Green food traumatization– it must be the basis for our marriage. 🙂

This soup, augmented with pieces of caramelized smoked sausage and a large handful of crispy, garlicky croutons is not traumatizing at all, comforting in fact. I think this soup also benefited from just simmering the split peas until soft but not subjecting the soup to pureeing so that the peas kept their shape and their slightly firm texture, kind of like a spring green lentil soup. Carrots add color and sweetness while cumin added a subtle heat. I definitely wouldn’t whine if this were served up to me on a rainy day.

Note: You can keep this vegan by omitting the sausage and replacing chicken stock with vegetable stock. Be sure to use smoked paprika instead of sweet to keep some of the smokey flavor that the sausage otherwise imparts.

  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • olive oil
  • 1 lb smoked turkey kielbasa
  • 1 lb dried green split peas
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • salt and pepper

Croutons

  • 1/2 loaf day old crusty bread, cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes
  • olive oil
  • 2 smashed garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper

Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Saute the onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery  and garlic and saute for another 3-4 minutes or until carrots soften just slightly. Add the split peas and stock, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours, adding water if too much liquid evaporates away for your taste.

In the meantime, while the soup simmers, heat a couple teaspoons of olive oil over medium high heat in the bottom of a heavy bottom or even better, cast iron skillet. Dice the sausage into pieces small pieces and distribute in an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Cook, undisturbed for about 5 or 6 minutes or until it begins to caramelize. Stir occasionally, cooking for a total of 15 to 20 minutes, ensuring all sides have a light brown coating. Add to the soup along with cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. When adding salt, keep in mind that the saltiness from the sausage.

In the last 10 minutes, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet with the smashed and peeled garlic cloves over medium heat. When the garlic pieces start to brown, add the pieces of bread and stir gently to coat without breaking apart the bread. Let the bread toast on all sides, about 10 minutes total then sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each bowl with a handful of croutons.

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