Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's a cruel, cruel, cruel Summer.

Seattle pretty much has two seasons.  Winter and Summer.  Summer always starts on July 5th and Winter always starts on October 31st.  Like clockwork, these are dates to plan your wardrobe by.  This year in a matter of two days it went from 55 degrees and cloudy to 95 degrees and blisteringly sunny.  Oh, and Seattle also has a knack for complaining about the weather.  Usually around the beginning of June you'll start hearing "I'm going to kill myself if the sun doesn't come out."  "Looks like we're not going to have a Summer this year."  Then sometime in August as the temperature hits it's peak you'll hear things like "If global warming is making this place hotter and hotter we might as well move to Alaska." or "If it doesn't rain and cool down soon I'm going to go live in the air conditioned mall."  Yeah, we love to complain.  We do it well.  Don't even get me started about what happens when it occasionally snows around here.  Lets just say it gets ugly and scenes from The Shining play out all over Seattle.  Why yes Jack, you are indeed a very dull boy.  Now quit whining about the weather.

What do I do to beat the heat?  I eat (wow, that had the makings of a really bad white girl rap song).  So let's talk about chilled soups for a minute.  I like a good chilled soup when it's done correctly.  But chefs need to quit trying to pass off drivel like Chilled Summer Fruit Soup.  I'm no dummy, you just served me a bowl of Juicy Juice.  Cold tomato soup?  Sopa de V-8 coming right up.  I like the tried and true cold soups.  A nice spicy Spanish gazpacho or a refined French classic like vichyssoise almost always hits the mark.  While I definitely encourage ingenuity and imagination when it comes to food, just remember while you're straining boiled pine needles for a soup.  The classics are classic for a reason.  But then again, someone had to make it first.  Recently I made Sugar Snap Pea Soup with Spicy Arugula Crema and Parmesan Garlic Croutons.  It's a twist on the classic Potage St. Germain (or chilled spring pea soup).  This soup can be served either hot or cold.  I can't really decide which way I like it better.  Chef Daniel Boulud makes a pretty yummy spring pea soup but I like mine better.  No disrespect, I love and admire the chef.  I'm just sayin', mine's tastier.  Perhaps when I'm long past dead, this soup will be on restaurant menus right next to the lobster thermidor and beef Wellington.  Wouldn't that be a kick?  A true new classic.

Sugar Snap Pea Soup with Spicy Arugula Crema and Parmesan Garlic Croutons

2 pounds fresh sugar snap peas, ends removed
1 Tbsp minced shallots
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups chicken stock, homemade is better
salt and white pepper tt
fresh grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

for the crema:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup of fresh washed arugula
1 Tbsp parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
a few dashes of hot sauce
salt and pepper tt

for the croutons:
a few slices of day old bread (white, rye, whatever you like), diced into cubes
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
salt tt

Preheat you oven to 375F.  In a large pot of boiling, salted water, blanch the sugar snap peas until they are quite tender but still a pretty and green, about 6 minutes. Don't overcook. When the peas are done, shock them in ice water to stop the cooking keep their bright color.

In the meantime, saute the shallots and garlic in a little butter over medium-low heat until tender (4-5 minutes) Set aside.   In a blender, add the peas, garlic, and shallots and puree until very smooth. Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock to get the soup blending.

Strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer or chinoise .  Discard the solids.  To the thick pea puree add the rest of the chicken stock and season.  Add a little nutmeg and the lemon juice.
Once again pass the soup through a strainer into a saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until the mixture is bubbling. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter. Taste and season.

While the soup is cooking, add all of the ingredients for the crema to a blender.  Puree and strain.  Season and set aside and keep cool.

Toss the bread cubes with the garlic powder, cheese, and salt.  Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or so until the croutons look toasty and browned.  Remove from the oven and let dry.

The soup is done when it has a nice velvety consistency ( about 15-20 minutes).  You can either serve the soup hot or you can chill it and serve with a big drizzle of the arugula crema and a handful of croutons.  Enjoy.

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