19 March 2007
Split Pea Sundays
Whatever happened to split pea soup? Maybe it’s that army green color, but it seems to have gone terribly out of style. When I first moved to New York I often stopped for lunch at the old counter luncheonettes tucked on the lower part of 2nd Avenue, with their bowls of kasha and warm challah breads. A rotating roster of soups kept both bellies and wallets full, and split pea was always a warming option for a chilly day. Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t seen split pea around much lately, though I’m sure it’s still on the menu in those envelope-thin delis of lower Manhattan.
And speaking of things missing, whatever happened to spring? Just when there was hope of nature moving along its normal course, it goes and buries us in snow and ice. Staring pointedly at that printed label in my datebook that said “Spring Begins” several days ago, didn’t seem to help any. Nonetheless, hunkering down in the house gave me the opportunity to stew up some split pea soup and thereby rescue it from the fashion equivalent of army fatigues.
Split Pea Soup with Ham Variations
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 pound dried split peas
2 1/2 quarts water
1 smoked ham hock (see below for variations)
1 tsp sea salt
1 bay leaf
- Put the water, ham hock, bay leaf, and salt in a pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, skimming the surface, stirring occasionally, and replenishing water if necessary. Remove the ham bone and shred any ham meat and return it to the pot. Add the onion, carrots, and peas and simmer for another 45 mintues, replenishing water as necessary, until the peas are done to your liking and everything is soft and combined. Discard the bay leaf and serve.
Like any simple recipe, this is open to experimentation. Some sauteed bacon and chicken stock are welcome additions. You could also use chunks of sausage like Kielbasa in place of the ham (skip the initial simmering step). For a vegetarian version omit the ham and use vegetable stock along with 1 tsp of cloves.