When I spotted fresh shelled green peas in two of my local supermarkets recently, I was at once reminded of a pea soup I had sampled in Paris late last spring at Le St. Joseph, a restaurant located on the outskirts of the city, but definitely worth the cab ride. When the creamy, celadon green soup arrived at the table, it was garnished with a fine dice of snowy white feta and with crisp, golden mini- croutons. One sip of this delicious, verdant potage, and I was smitten. I polished off the bowl in less than 5 minutes.
Fast forward a year to those fresh peas nestled among the sugar snaps and snow peas at the grocery. I picked up several packages to create a facsimile of the Parisian original. Sautéed leeks and tarragon make fine partners to the peas, which are simmered for a few minutes in stock, and then pureed. Some half-and- half adds a smooth finishing touch, but it is the simple garnishes that truly distinguish this dish. I sliced a block of feta into fine dice and sautéed small croutons cut from a peasant loaf until lightly browned. It took less than 15 minutes to prepare both.
Offer this delectable soup as an anchor for a light spring meal. A salad of tender green oak leaf lettuce, thinly sliced cucumbers, and scallions cut on the diagonal tossed in a white wine vinaigrette, and a warm crusty baguette are all the accompaniments you’ll need.
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Fresh Pea Soup with Diced Feta and Tarragon
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
1 medium potato (8 oz) such as Yukon Gold, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cups shelled fresh peas or 2 cups (12 oz) frozen peas, defrosted (See note.)
3 tsp dried tarragon
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken stock plus extra if needed
1 cup half-and-half
2 cups bread cubes (1/4 to 1/2 dice) made from a good-quality baguette or peasant loaf with crusts removed
3 tbsp olive oil
4 to 5-oz piece of firm feta, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tsps chopped fresh tarragon
1. For the soup, heat oil in a medium-sized pot over medium high heat. When hot, add leeks and sauté, stirring until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. (Do not let them brown). Add potatoes, peas, dried tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Cook and stir 1 minute more. Then add chicken stock. Bring mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
2. Remove from heat, and puree mixture in a food processor or blender. (Or, puree mixture in the pot with an immersion blender.) Return mixture to pot over low heat and stir in half and half. Taste and season with more salt (depending on the stock used, you may need to add up to 1 /2 teaspoon extra salt) and pepper. (Soup can be prepared 1 day ahead to this stage; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, over medium heat, adding more stock if it seems too thick.)
3. For garnishes, in a medium- sized skillet over medium heat, heat oil until hot. Add bread cubes and cook and stir, until bread is crisp and golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and set aside. (Croutons can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover loosely with foil and leave at room temperature.)
4. To serve, ladle soup into four bowls and garnish each serving with some croutons and diced feta and with a sprinkle of fresh chopped tarragon. Serves 4.
I love this soup prepared with fresh peas, but if unavailable you can substitute 2 cups frozen peas (about 12 oz), which have been defrosted, drained, and patted dry.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2018