You’ll know that spring has officially arrived when this velvety soup appears at Bluestem. I put it on the menu as soon as fresh English peas become available. The soup bursts with the grassy, sweet flavors of the season. It gets a hit of tanginess from whipped crème fraîche and tart preserved lemons add a bright, fragrant note. Although it’s served warm at the restaurant, on a warm spring day I’ll make this soup at home and serve it chilled, with a glass of white wine. If you do this, remember to taste and season it just before serving.
Diners at the restaurant often ask how the soup maintains its vibrant, green color. The trick: All of the ingredients are blended together while they are cold, and the soup is kept chilled until it is ready to be served. It is not seasoned or warmed until the very last minute.
At Bluestem, all soups and sauces are poured tableside to give our guests an interactive experience. This allows the diner to see the other ingredients before the liquid is added. It also ensures that the soup makes it to the table without sloshing around and staining the sides of the bowl.
1. In a blender, combine 4 cups of the peas, the vegetable stock, and the parsley. Blend on high speed until the ingredients become a smooth puree. Transfer the soup to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
2. When you are ready to serve, heat the soup over medium heat until it has warmed through (do not boil the soup, which will hasten its discoloration). Season with salt and pepper to taste. At the restaurant, we finish the soup by whisking in a touch of butter to give it a richer texture and flavor.
3. Place a dollop of whipped crème fraîche in the center of each of four soup bowls. Divide the remaining 1⁄2 cup peas and the preserved lemon among the bowls, arranging them around the crème fraîche. Sprinkle the crushed pink peppercorns over the top. Pour the warmed soup around the crème fraîche and over the other ingredients at the table.
Note: Although fresh peas are preferable, frozen peas are an alternative. You do not need to blanch the frozen peas, but you will want to let them thaw and drain off any extra water. Crush the pink peppercorns between two kitchen towels or in a tightly sealed plastic bag with a rolling pin. Or you can crush the peppercorns between your fingers or palms.
Recipe adapted from Bluestem: The Cookbook, by Colby Garrelts and Megan Garrelts (Andrews McMeel, 2011).