Spring is springing all over the city of angels and I am really excited about it. I can smell the wisteria and night blooming jasmine, birds are chirping like crazy, everything is green and bloomy, all of my windows are open and I can wear much cuter tops. The clear, bright and warm days morph into clean, cool evenings with a hint of mystery. This is the absolute perfect time of year to be in Los Angeles.
Oh, and did I mention the produce?
Asparagus, artichokes, peas, heirloom tomatoes, arugula, beans, strawberries and rhubarb are all in season right now and the farmers markets are filled to the brim with them. It’s just wonderful.
I lived in Atlanta for about 6 years prior to moving here in late March of 2002. We didn’t have farmers markets like the ones here. There were no outdoor, open-air markets with individual growers. At least, not that I knew of. I’m sure they have them now, of course. There was an interesting place in Decatur called the Dekalb Farmers Market. It was huge and amazing. It was also reminiscent of a Costco, but just for food – a huge warehouse and great prices. The employees had to wear hair nets and no photography was allowed. Looking back, that was actually a really strange place.
One of my closest friends in Atlanta, Michael Fancini, coined me “The Duchess”. I don’t think it was entirely a compliment or an insult and, while I’m not completely sure why he called me that, I get it. If you knew me, you’d probably get it. In fact, everyone in Atlanta got it. So much so, that I became The Duchess. Occasionally, if I was acting particularly persnickety or gooby, Fancini would lengthen the moniker to “The Duchess of Dork”. Cute.
I miss that guy. He had a beautiful Boxer that he named Chesty B. Wiggles. He also worked wonders with polenta.
So, now here I live in this city of sunshine and shadows, limos and lights, diamonds and guns. And this is the place I call home. As far as I know, I currently have no nickname to speak of. But when I’m at the Sunday market, picking over the healthiest, fluffiest chards, nuttiest avocados, brightest dandelion greens, or delicately sifting through the squash blossoms and perfect heirloom tomatoes, I feel like The Duchess.
At last Sunday’s market while delicately examining and selecting my peas, the metaphor was not lost on me: The Duchess and the pea.
And on a beautiful, sunshiney day, remembering my life in Atlanta, Michael Fancini, Chesty B. Wiggles, and the Dekalb Farmers Market, home to make soup I went.
Fresh Mint Pea Soup
*I have a bounty of various mints growing in my garden. I used a mixture of candy mint, lime mint and chocolate mint. If you can find some different mints, they add a wonderful complexity and zing to the soup.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large shallot, chopped
3 ½ cups fresh peas
3 cups chicken stock
¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
1 cup sour cream
Sea salt & white pepper
Heat oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and sauté until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add peas and stir for a couple of minutes, until well coated. Add stock and bring to simmer. Cook until peas are tender, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to cook too long or on too high heat, to maintain the integrity of the green in the peas.
Let cool for about 15-30 minutes. Puree soup and mint in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pot. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and chill.
Rewarm soup over medium-low heat and salt & pepper to taste. Garnish with a little sprig of mint and serve.
This soup can be served hot or cold and would pair beautifully with a sparkling vouvray.