A few years ago, my friends and I got tickets to The View on ABC. It was so much fun – Baba Wawa and the whole gang was there. And the guests included Oscar De La Renta and Zac Efron. After the show, we had a fantastic lunch at Jean-Georges’ Nougatine, where we sampled, among other fabulous things, a great sweet pea soup, poured tableside into bowls of cheese and croutons. This is my take on that experience. And I also found inspiration from Alice Waters’ Spring Pea Soup recipe in The Art of Simple Food, one of my favorite cookbooks. - mrslarkin —mrslarkin
Test Kitchen Notes
The lemongrass infused cream and mint add a refreshing note to this spring pea soup. There is also a nice tang from the cream to cut the sweetness. The soup is surprisingly satisfying -- it has a delicate, light flavor yet it is quite filling. However, the garlic flavor of the croutons overpowers the delicate flavors of the soup, and the texture from the peas is enough that you don't really need the crunch from the croutons. So I will be enjoying this soup for lunch but I'll be saving the croutons for a caesar salad. - clbeth —The Editors
For the Garlic Croutons
ciabatta bread, crust removed, cut into 1 inch cubes, to make about 2 cups of cubes
sea salt and pepper
garlic cloves, sliced
For the Soup
lemongrass, fat bulb end sliced thin like scallion rounds
1 1/2 cups
fluffy tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano (grated with a microplane grater)
large garlic cloves, crushed
fresh or frozen spring sweet peas (I used mostly frozen and a cup of fresh)
Toss bread cubes with salt and pepper. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and toss again.
In a cast iron pan, melt a hunk of unsalted butter over medium-low heat. Add garlic. When pan is hot, add bread cubes. Cook slowly, turning the cubes as each side browns, or by giving the pan a good shake every now and then (with a dish towel covering the handle, of course.) When nice and golden, remove croutons, and set aside.
For the Soup
In a small pot, heat the cream and lemongrass. Let it gently simmer and infuse while you make the soup.
In a medium soup pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and salt, and cook until fragrant and soft, but not browned.
Add the water. Bring to a boil, then add the herbs and peas. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, or until the peas are tender. Reserve a few spoonfuls of peas for dressing up your soup, if desired.
In a blender, puree the peas, herbs and water in batches to minimize hot splashes when you turn the blender on. Make sure your top is on! Place each pureed batch in a large bowl. When done pureeing all the soup, return it to the soup pot, taste for salt, and keep warm over low heat.
Strain the lemongrass from the cream into a warm-ish bowl. Discard lemongrass. Stir in Parmigiano, and whisk until lightly frothy. I tried using my milk frother, without success. I wonder if it would froth better with half and half? Will try that next time.
If using, place a spoonful of reserved peas into warmed soup bowls. Ladle soup into bowls. Drop 5 croutons into each bowl. Spoon lemongrass cream over soup, and pull a knife through it to make a decorative pattern, that is, if you're good at that sort of thing (clearly, I am not). Or, much easier, place cream in a small pitcher and let your guests help themselves.
If serving cold, chill soup and sauce separately in refrigerator for a few hours.