In early spring, farm markets will put out their first crops of the season, including peas and asparagus. In fact, there is an old Irish tradition of planting peas on St. Patrick’s Day. The sturdy peas take root in the cold ground and provide the spring kitchen with one of the sweetest green treats. In addition, green peas are just bursting with health benefits: they are high in fiber, low in calories, and have almost twice the protein of other vegetables.
Mid-spring is also prime harvest season for asparagus in the Hudson Valley. Not only are the vivid green spears powerful in both color and flavor, they provide a healthy dose of folic acid; potassium; vitamins A, C, and B6; and fiber. Early Native Americans used asparagus for medicinal purposes, including as a remedy for kidney and bladder problems (dried asparagus is a natural diuretic).
The Culinary Institute of America’s Thai Fresh Pea Soup uses fresh peas and green curry to create a subtle twist on an old spring classic. It can be prepared in under half an hour so you’ll have plenty of time to get outside and celebrate the warm weather. For a smoother texture, pour the soup through a strainer to remove the skins before serving.
6 cups vegetable broth, plus as needed
1 cup chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tsp green curry paste
8 cups shelled peas (thawed if using frozen)
Salt and pepper as needed
1 tsp lightly toasted mustard seeds
¼ cup chopped mint
Add about ½ cup of the broth to soup pot and bring to simmer over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and curry paste. Sauté, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and translucent, about five minutes.
Add remaining broth to pot and bring to a boil. Add peas; cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
Remove pot from heat and let soup cool for at least 10 minutes before puréeing with handheld blender.
Strain soup through sieve; reserve liquid if using countertop blender or food processor. Add the solids to blender jar or food processor bowl; do not overfill. Add some of the liquid, replace cover (without the vent from lid or feed tube), and purée until smooth. Add more liquid if necessary to help purée the solids.
Transfer puréed soup to a clean pot. Continue until all solids are puréed.
Blend soup and adjust consistency by adding some of remaining reserved liquid. (Soup is ready to finish now or it can be cooled and stored up to two days in refrigerator or up to one month in freezer).
Return soup to a simmer over low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve soup in heated bowls, garnished with toasted mustard seeds and chopped mint.
Nutrition analysis per 11-ounce serving: 140 calories, 8g protein, 26g carbohydrate, 1g fat, 860mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol, 8g fiber
This recipe can be found in The Culinary Institute of America’s Vegetables Cookbook (2007 Lebhar-Friedman).