21 October 2014
Yellow split pea soup with kale and quinoa
We are just barely back from a whirlwind trip to a family wedding on the Florida panhandle. We flew into New Orleans, stayed for a day of beignets, coffee, and wandering around, and then set off for that most traditional of American pastimes: driving for several hours across several states to get as many family members as possible into one place at one time.
The wedding -- on a blindingly white and lovely beach -- was tiny but very happy, with toast after toast in both Spanish and English stretching on into the night at the reception. Yay!
We had a great time.
That said, do you know how much vegetarian food there is in the tourist areas of NOLA and the beach (and also the airport)? Not much. Almost not at all. I ate several platters of fish with fried shrimp garnish, a plateful of veal, and an excellent sausage with caraway, but the vegetables were few and far between, and the beans practically nonexistent, except in dishes that also contained large chunks of ham. There were multiple bags of delicious Michigan apples, however!
So when we got home John and I (especially John -- I like meat, even if my digestive system is not happy with me after I eat this much of it) were ready to get some beans and greens into our mouths as instantly as possible. We dug some split peas out of the freezer, got our hands on a big bunch of kale, and went to town.
The secret to making a delicious yet vegan split pea soup is liquid smoke. Well, liquid smoke and plenty of other herbs and spices. Actually, the use of herbs and spices is possibly the secret of vegan and vegetarian cooking in general. You don't have meat flavoring everything automatically, so spice application is super important.
Yellow split pea soup with kale and quinoa
1 cup yellow split peas (green will work too)
oil of your choice
1 yellow onion
3-4 cloves garlic
~4 cups vegetable broth
salt & pepper
marjoram, paprika, smoked paprika, cayenne, red pepper flake
optional splash of dry vermouth or white wine
1 bunch kale
handful of fresh parsley with stems
1 cup quinoa
10-15 drops liquid smoke
Start by covering your split peas in plenty of hot tap water. Leave them to soak and begin softening for 15 minutes or more before you start cooking. This quick soak will help reduce the overall cooking time.
Warm a slug of oil on medium heat in the bottom of a 3-quart pot. Chop your onion and add it to the oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until your onion has begun to soften.
Mince your garlic, scrub and chop your carrot, and wash and chop your leek. Add each vegetable to the pot as you finish chopping it.
Season your vegetables with a few shakes of salt, as well as some marjoram, paprika, smoked paprika, cayenne, and red pepper flake to taste. Toss a bay leaf in there too. If you don't have every single one of those spices, you can always rely more heavily on what you do have. I just like to use smaller amounts of a variety of different peppers for a nice depth of flavor.
Stir everything together and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes. When all your vegetables are nicely softened, drain your split peas and add them to the pot, along with your vegetable broth. If you would like to add some vermouth, now is a great time to splash some in.
Bring the pot to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until your split peas are completely cooked and soft.
While you're waiting, wash, destem, and roughly chop your kale. Chop up your fresh parsley as well. Put your quinoa on to cook, so it'll be hot and ready when your soup is done.
When your split peas are cooked, take the pot off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and puree your soup to the texture you desire with an immersion blender. Or leave it chunky if you prefer. It's all good. If your soup is too thick, this is a good time to add some more broth or water to thin it.
Stir your chopped kale and about half of your parsley into the hot soup. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until all the greens are well wilted.
For the final seasoning, add your liquid smoke. This stuff is very potent, so be careful and add a little at a time. This is also the time to add pepper and correct any other seasonings.
To serve, add a scoop of hot quinoa to the bottom of a soup bowl. Top with a ladleful of soup and garnish with the extra parsley.
Hooray! Beans (or pulses anyway), greens, and quinoa, together at last.
Needless to say, we both felt miles better after eating this delicious veg-heavy dinner in our own house.
What's the first thing you want to eat when you get back to your own kitchen after a few days (or weeks) of traveling?