In an effort to start cleaning out the pantries before we ship the bulk of our assorted kitchen stuff and furniture off to Morocco I am slowly but surely working through my dried goods. On Monday night I made a simple and good dinner of red lentils simmered until soupy with coconut milk and spinach and served over short grain brown rice. Yesterday, in the midst of some recipe testing for an NPR story and baking a chocolate cake with peanut butter buttercream, I also turned out a pot of split pea soup loaded with vegetables with a generous handful of spinach thrown in at the end. Kind of in the vein of Portlandia, I add spinach to nearly everything I can — you know, put spinach in it! Yeah.
Anyway, this soup is not fancy nor is it necessarily complex, but it’s satisfying in an entirely wholesome way. First I cooked down an onion with diced carrots and a little celery, and added a warming note of curry powder to keep things interesting. I imagine you could add even more vegetables — potatoes? Sweet potatoes? Peas? — depending on preference, but in the spirit of whittling down the stores I also haven’t been overly stocking the fridge and this is what I had on hand. Then I added in vegetable broth and split peas, finishing off with fresh baby spinach. The results were the perfect thing for a foggy, chilly May evening: hearty, nourishing, and with enough spice to take the edge off. Never mind my wool socks: I had an unexpected Giants recovery from down 6-0 plus a basketball playoff game to distract me. And a bowl of this soup.
After a couple of weeks of traveling and being in and out of town it’s been nice to settle in a bit this week. The kitchen of course serves to ground me no matter where I am, and I anticipate spending many hours in my new kitchen in North Africa upon arrival to help make sense of all the change. I’ve started stockpiling some American goodies (peanut butter, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, baking powder, unsweetened cocoa powder and the like) to ship over to tide me by for awhile (then I’ll avail myself of amazon) since I don’t quite know what to expect once there. I’m already mourning the loss of my lovely access to all sorts of organic goodies (alas, fakin’ bacon! For serious.) but also trying to remember there’s a whole new world about to open up for me. Not least of which is the vast amount of counter space. Maybe I’ll be making a lot of soup? Time will tell.
Simple and nourishing, this is one of my go-to soups. Play around with different vegetables as you like (chard or kale for the spinach, etc.), and add more or less broth to your taste. Additional spices and flavors might include cumin, turmeric, or even a bit of coconut milk.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried curry powder
pinch cayenne pepper
2 cups dried split peas, rinsed and picked over
4 cups vegetable broth
2-3 cups water
4-5 cups (or so) spinach
salt and pepper to taste
In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, carrots and celery, and cook until soft about 5-7 minutes. Add a splash or two of water if needed. Stir in the dried spices, cover the pot, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the split peas and the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then lower and simmer, half-covered, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add water as necessary if the split peas absorb too much broth, or you prefer a more brothy soup. Test split peas; when fairly soft, stir in the spinach and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.