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In Our Kitchen : Go for the green with Spanish Pea Soup With Crispy Ham

Spanish Pea Soup With Crispy Ham, a nourishing offering, comes together quickly.

Ileana Morales | Special to the Times

Spanish Pea Soup With Crispy Ham, a nourishing offering, comes together quickly.

I should probably have joined a gym by now, two weeks into the new year. Danny has taken up swimming for days when he's not running or playing tennis. You're more likely to find my enthusiasm for health on the food side of things. Yes, even the salads and everything else green that magazines are presenting to you this month. Honestly, it's what I crave. Keep any stray holiday cookies to yourself.

With my new daily planner finally picked out, I was ready to make the first soup of the year. This one comes from Ina Garten's latest cookbook, which was one of many cookbook gifts we gratefully received this season. Her book of "foolproof" recipes is filled with splendid-looking food, but her gloriously green soup caught my eye.

This Spanish Pea Soup With Crispy Ham doesn't ask much of you, which is considerate at a time when we've got resolutions to contemplate and routines to return to. The ingredients are few and they're staples of the kitchen. We're talking shallots, garlic, stock and frozen peas.

The soup is bright, simple and as foolproof as Ina promises. Don't underestimate how good it will be just because it comes together so quickly.

A big slice of crispy prosciutto in the middle of each bowl of electric green instantly makes this soup impressive, and the crispy ham tastes like bacon. Pig and peas (and legumes) always play well together. Treat yourself to some good prosciutto or Serrano ham for this one.

And when it comes to crispy ham, always make extra. Danny stole a piece or two of the crispy prosciutto before the soup was even served. Learn from my mistake.

What makes this pea soup so perfect for this time of year is that it's hot and comforting, but it's also green and nourishing at a time when you may miss summer's generous produce. If it's truly cold where you are, I bet this will taste even better. You'll think it's spring.

Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with her boyfriend, Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be contacted at alittlesaffron@gmail.com.

>>EASy

Spanish Pea Soup With Crispy Ham

This is an incredibly simple and quick soup, and it's unbelievably flavorful and delicious. Bright green is a welcome color on your plate, especially at the beginning of the year, and this soup makes a lovely first course or light lunch with a salad. A little goat cheese swirled into leftovers isn't a bad idea either.

Extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup (2 large) chopped shallots

1 (3 or 4 cloves) tablespoon minced garlic

4 cups chicken stock

2 pounds frozen peas

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

6 thin slices of Spanish Serrano ham or Italian prosciutto

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan (I used my Dutch oven, Ina recommends something 8 inches by 5 inches). Stir in the shallots and saute until tender and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the chicken stock, frozen peas, salt and pepper and bring it all to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Puree the soup with an immersion blender until it is blended but maintains a coarse texture. Taste the soup and season accordingly with up to another teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Meanwhile, spread out the ham on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Keep in mind that the ham slices will continue to cook and crisp up a bit after you pull them from the oven.

Ladle soup into bowls and serve with a piece of crispy ham in the center of each bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately. Soup will keep in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for a few months, but the ham should be cooked just before serving.

Serves 6.

Source: Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust by Ina Garten

In Our Kitchen : Go for the green with Spanish Pea Soup With Crispy Ham 01/15/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 14, 2013 6:46pm]
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