February 21, 2011

It's Quite Something

When it comes to winter, I'm torn. On one hand it's an excuse to stay in on the weekends and work my way through this behemoth, revisit music from college, cook next week's dinners, and go on an occasional drive when the sun eventually shines its face.

On the other hand, it means the vegetable scene is a bit grim. Which is why, during these months, soup is the mainstay of this apartment.

That we have beans and legumes to sustain us during these barren months, I will forever be grateful. Red lentil soup with lemons is reminiscent of tomatoes; green lentil soup with bacon could pass as, well, green lentil soup with bacon. (I tried.) And then there's the split pea family - yellow and green. God bless them. They could almost get by being called a vegetable.

To say that the only good thing these months offer is pea soup would be a grave disservice to this most-peaceful of seasons. Despite the complaints above, I couldn't get on without this rest. It's quiet, and I like that.

As our ever-changing landscape of technology can be noisy and distracting, quietness is a great ally for me. In last week's New Yorker, Adam Gopnik wrote an essay reviewing books about how technology is changing us. Although this topic has been written about ad nauseum, Gopnik hit it spot on when he said, "Once it [technology] is not everything, it can be merely something."

The latter part is how I feel about winter's limited food selection. It's no bounty, but it's certainly quite something in its quietness.

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Frankfurters
From 'The Book of Jewish Food'

This is the next soup recipe on my list, found in Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food. Although I'm as WASP-y is they come and Jewish food isn't a regular occurrence around here (but it soon may be), I simply love that this recipe gives hot dogs an air of class.

Roden suggests butter beans or red lentils could also be used here. Also, consider halving the recipe. (It serves 10.) I like split peas, but everything has its limits.

1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
3 Tbs light vegetable oil
1 lb. yellow split peas, soaked overnight
13 cups chicken or beef stock (or 2 bouillon cubes)
A bunch of celery leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
3/4 lb. skinless frankfurters or wurst sausages, sliced
Juice of 1/2 lemon or more to taste

In a large pan, gently fry the onion and carrots in the oil till they soften. Add the drained yellow peas and about 2/3 of the stock and bring to a boil. Remove the 'scum', add the celery leaves, and simmer, covered on very low heat for about 1 hour, or until the peas are soft. Liquefy the soup in a blender or food processor and return it to the pan.

Add salt and pepper, the bay leaves, and the rest of the stock-the amount depends on the consistency that you prefer. (Author's Note: The reason for adding it at this stage is to make blending easier with less liquid.) Cook 1/2 hour longer. Add the sausages and lemon juice, and a little water if necessary, and cook a few minutes more. Serve very hot.