When I first moved to California, the number and size of rosemary shrubs growing almost everywhere surprised me. The only rosemary I ever saw while living in the Midwest and the South was modest sized plants growing in little pots. Here, the shrubs quickly grow quite large unless restrained with vigorous pruning. I'm pretty lax in my pruning, so the rosemary growing in my backyard is out of control and starting to remind me of kudzu.
In honor of Herb Blogging Weekend started by Kalyn, I made split pea soup, with rosemary croutons. This soup doesn't look or taste anything like traditional split pea soup. The broth is lighter in texture, but full of flavor. It's hard to choose between the two versions, so I won't.
I must admit, as I was making this soup, I had my doubts that it would taste good. But, the recipe comes from my Green's Cookbook by Deborah Madison, which never lets me down. I had faith and sure enough, after an hour of cooking it was transformed into a delicious soup with it's own unique character.
The rosemary came from one of the monster bushes in my backyard. Right now they're in a pretty phase, covered with blue flowers. Because rosemary can overwhelm a dish, I added exactly the amount called for in the recipe. I sampled the soup when it first started cooking and it was almost tasteless, so I was tempted to add more rosemary. I didn't and the finished product was just right. The flavor of the soup intensified as it cooked.
The recipe called for celeriac, but I was unable to find it. I used a turnip instead and although I usually dislike turnip root, it was a good addition to the soup.
I love to dress up a soup, with croutons or some other garnish. The rosemary croutons were so good, it was tempting to snack on them. I like large croutons, so I made them from thick slices of rustic white bread.
This soup doesn't look glamorous, but it was very enjoyable to eat. My husband finished off two large bowls of it and would have eaten a third, if there had been more of it.
Split pea soup, with rosemary croutons (adapted from Deborah Madison's The Green's Cookbook)
1 cup green split peas
1/2 cup light olive oil
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon rosemary, coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove sliced
1 large yellow onion, cut in 1/2 inch dice
3 inner stalks of celery, cut in a small dice
1 celeriac, trimmed and cut in small cubes or 1 large turnip cut in small cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 cups stock
1 rosemary branch, about 3 inches long
2-3 slices of white bread, cut into squares, for croutons
parsley or chervil finely chopped
grated Parmesan or Romano
Sort through the peas and remove any debris. Rinse them well and cover generously with water and set them aside to soak overnight. Or cover with boiling water and let them set for one hour, then cook. Note: soaking is best for the texture of the soup.
Gradually warm 3 tablespoons of oil in a soup pot with the bay leaves and the rosemary, and let it cook slowly to flavor the oil, for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and let it cook for another minute without letting it brown. Then add all the other vegetables and salt and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally over medium heat. Pour in the wine and let it reduce by half. Drain the peas and add to the pot, along with the stock. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the peas are soft--around 1 !/2 hours.
When the soup is done, puree 2 cups of the soup in a food processor and return to the pot. Adjust for salt and pepper.
Warm the remaining 5 tablespoons of oil in a small skillet along with the rosemary branch. When the oil is hot and has a wonderful scent of rosemary, remove it from the skillet and add the bread squares, frying them until they are crisp and brown. Remove to towels to drain You can pour any remaining oil into the soup, if you wish. Serve the soup with the croutons, parsley or chervil, and some grated Parmesan or Romano.