I’ve been into brassicas lately. If you open my fridge on any regular week you may find some broccoli at least. I like broccoli but it’s not my favorite. And last week I went overboard with brassicas at my vegetable co-op: there are currently cabbages, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and a head of cauliflower in my fridge. Yes, that’s the kind of crazy you are dealing with here. I was planning to pickle the cabbages and roast the Brussels, but cauliflower, which is my favorite, has been waiting for something special to be done.
There is always an option to steam it and cook in butter, drenched in breadcrumbs. Makes for an addictive side dish. Especially if you add sour cream to it. But no, I am not in the mood for breadcrumbs these days.
Sometimes, it’s a companion vegetable that gives you the right idea. And this time the sidekick role was given to sugar snap peas. I picked up some yesterday and they were fantastic — crisp, juicy, tender and sweet — a true spring treat. My five year old pops them like candy, one after another. So it was the bag of peas that gave me a push — I opted in for spring vegetable soup with cauliflower and peas. Nothing particularly fancy, very simple and quick set up.
The kid came home from school early today, so I made her sit down and shell the peas for me. The thing about sugar peas is — their pods are just too good to throw away; there are plenty of vitamins and flavor going to waste. But those shells don’t look that good in a soup, and after cooking for a while they become mushy. And that’s when I remembered and old trick mom taught us kids. After shelling peas, we take all the empty pods and lace them together onto a long thread — making a pea pod necklace! First you cook that necklace in the soup to unleash all the flavor and color, and when almost done, remove the mushy necklace and add fresh peas. Don’t let them overcook, they are very tender. And voila! The best of both worlds and no guilty feelings. Thanks, mom!
Here are the What and How, for this batch:
Spring Vegetable Soup with Cauliflower and Peas
If shelling peas, reserve all pods and, using a thread and needle, put then together into a “necklace”.
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4-5 young carrots, diced or sliced into rounds
- 2-3 stalks of celery, diced
- 3 medium or 5 small red potatoes, with skin, cubed
- 6 cups of water or vegetable stock
- 1 bay leaf
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 head cauliflower, cored and broken into medium florets
- 1 cup of freshly shelled sugar snap peas, reserve the pods
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- handful of fresh chopped herbs, such as parsley, dill or cilantro
Melt butter in a Dutch oven or your favorite soup pot, over medium heat.
Toss in carrots, onions and celery and sauté for a few minutes, until onions are lightly golden and translucent.
Add stock or water, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Add cauliflower and potatoes. Season to taste and add white pepper.
Add pea pod necklace to the pot and make sure its completely submerged. Bring to a boil again, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are cooked, for about 15 minutes.
Remove and discard pea pod necklace, thyme and bay leaf. Add fresh peas and cook for another 5 minutes. Do not overcook the peas.
Add fresh chopped parsley or dill before turning off heat.
Serve with a generous teaspoon of sour cream. Enjoy with crusty bread with butter.