As it gets warmer in Seattle, I would expect myself to shift from comfort foods to salads and smoothies. Yeah, I would. However, this March was rainy and foggy so I decided to delay the shift until mid-April. I believe that my body knows better what it needs to stay comfortable and reserve energy for the upcoming summer. In truth, I expect this summer to be busy and energy-draining, but I’ll say more about this later.
When I was a kid, I could not understand why my parents liked and made me eat soups so often, especially considering that in Ukraine soup is a first course during lunch, which means usually you get a bowl of soup followed by rice or pasta to complement it. Here, in the U.S., I can have a bowl of soup as a separate meal at almost any time of the day (I know it may sound weird, but I can eat soup for breakfast. Don’t judge me until you’ve first tried the soups I love).
The recipe that I want to share with you was not on my list of favorites until two years ago. Actually, the last time I ate it before that was around ten or fifteen years ago. So, yes, it was definitely not my favorite until the right time came. Traditionally, yellow or green pea soups are made with bacon or smoked meat. Because I seek to follow a plant-based dietary approach in everyday life, cooking with meat is not an option for me. However, this became our family’s number one preferred soup over the well-known borsch (I am sure you guys know how much eastern Europeans love borsch!). It is an easy, nutritious, and heart-warming dish.
One of the components I want to discuss today is a main ingredient—yellow split peas. I always advise buying organic produce in bulk because it is cleaner and less expensive than prepackaged items. Split peas are an amazing source of protein that helps to build strength and muscles and carbohydrates that fuel you with energy and keep you active throughout a day. Just one-half cup of cooked split peas provides around 10 grams of protein and 26 grams of carbohydrates. Let’s also not forget about fiber. The same amount of split peas gives you 10 grams of fiber, which does wonders for your digestive system.
Some people may have problems digesting legumes if they are not used to them. That is why I recommend presoaking legumes, preferably overnight. This will help with digestion and will cut cooking time significantly. Just make sure you soak them in a large amount of water because they will absorb almost all of it relatively quickly.
Adding peas to your diet is something you really want to do for yourself because legumes are not only a good source of protein and carbs but also really low in fat, which cannot be said about meat. Just one-half cup of cooked split peas contains less than 1 gram of fat. Those who have a family history of cardiac issues or simply try to stick to a healthy diet and weight should definitely eat more legumes. I have not even mentioned yet how legumes are cheaper to buy and store in your pantry than to buy, freez, store, and cook meat safely.
There are a few more ingredients that are worth mentioning, but because I use them in many other dishes, I want to leave that discussion for future posts. The only part of the recipe that I want to touch on before we roll up our sleeves for cooking is croutons.
I am a big fan of baked goods, although they can be heavy on calories and should be enjoyed in moderation. I do not eat bread on a regular basis, but when I choose to have it, I go with the cleanest option possible. This means that I choose bread that does not contain any all-purpose or white flour and/or yeast. Traditional flour, in my opinion, contains empty calories that do not bring any nutritional value but add to daily caloric intake. I avoid yeast because it is known to feed a bacterium called Candida and contributes to Crohn’s disease and asthma. Using my usual approach for choosing foods from the store, I try to choose bread that has as few ingredients as possible with ingredients I know and can pronounce. So, read the labels, guys, and make a wise decision for your well-being.
Now it’s time to make some soup!
The main components in the recipe are highlighted; feel free to substitute the rest.
Yellow Pea Soup with Spicy Croutons
300 g of presoaked overnight yellow peas
2 liters (quarts) of water
2 small or 1 large zucchini, cut in medium cubes
1 small yellow onion, cut in small cubes
2 stalks of celery, cut in small cubes
1 yellow sweet pepper, cut in small cubes
1 large carrot, cut in small cubes
2 pinches of turmeric
a half loaf of bread (I use Barley Quinoa Bread by European Breads Bakery)
- Rinse the split peas very well until the running water is clear.
- Add a tablespoon of avocado oil to the soup pan (if you cook without any oil as I do, skip this step and just add a little water to the vegetables to keep them from sticking to the pan).
- When the oil is hot, add the onion, followed by the carrot, celery, and sweet pepper and sauté until the vegetables are soft and tender.
- Add 2 liters of water to the vegetables and bring to a boil.
- Add the yellow peas to the broth and bring to a boil.
- The peas are going to produce scum, so make sure you skim it off as it appears.
- When the soup boils, reduce the heat and let it cook for a while until the split peas are soft (make sure to watch your soup often because the peas will start to break apart quickly and can become mushy. I don’t mind them being broken, so it is mostly a matter of personal preference; choose what consistency works best for you).
- When the split peas are tender, add salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and turmeric to your soup, let it boil, adjust the taste, and turn the stove off.
- While your lentils are cooking, warm the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut the bread into small cubes and spread them on the paper.
- Sprinkle a little avocado oil on the cubes (to avoid oil, you can use a little water).
- Sprinkle the cubes with salt, red pepper, garlic powder, and dried parsley.
- Bake the croutons until they are crunchy.
When your soup is ready, serve it with the croutons. Make sure you bake enough croutons because they will be gone before you know it!
Tip: If you presoak your split peas overnight or for at least six hours, it’s going to take you thirty minutes to cook this soup. I promise that it is easy and tasty, so next time you may want to double the recipe. Also, consider the fact that some people like to “drink” their soup, which means adding fewer peas, and some, like me, prefer their soup to be thick. That is why I always go with 400 or even 500 g of dry split peas.
Try it out and save the recipe to enjoy!