Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

So, back in February, when I posted about the French Split Pea Soup, one of my colleagues commented to me, "What about American split pea soup?"  I took this as a challenge and looked through my cookbooks to find what could be considered an American split pea soup.  In the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, I found Vegetarian Split Pea Soup and made it on March 1.  Now, the reason I considered this "American," is that according to the description in the cookbook, this recipe is similar to that of Pea Soup Andersen's, a restaurant in the middle of California which does have really good pea soup!

As you can see from the above image, the good thing about this recipe for the grad student is that you can do a lot of the prep work the night before.  I chopped the shallots, carrots, and celery the night before and so only had to throw in the split peas and the spices in the morning before heading off to school.  As you can (somewhat) see from the image on the right, the spices include a bay leaf, thyme, sage, and salt (which I probably didn't put in, but it was a long time ago so it's hard to remember!).  The good thing about this recipe as well for the grad student is that you just use water so you don't have to spend any extra money on chicken or vegetable broth.  You then just stir everything together and cook it for 12-15 hours, which is really good if you're going to have a long day at school.

This is what the soup looked like before I turned it on.

And this is what it looked like after cooking on low for 12-15 hours.

After the soup is done cooking, you remove the bay leaf and puree the soup.  I used my roommate's food processor at the time, but it was awkward and messy to switch the soup from the crock pot to the food processor and back.  I highly recommend an immersion blender (which I do have now, so future pureed soups will be done that way).  You serve the soup with a little bit of cayenne pepper on top.  The cookbook suggests serving it with warm bread or croutons, but I opted not to do this.  Now, I didn't really like this recipe.  It was too watery and there wasn't enough flavor, not thick like split pea soup should be.  So, sorry Kyle, but the French win on this one.

I ended up adding a piece of the pork from my French Split Pea Soup adventure to this and cooking it overnight.  This cooked off the water a bit and the pork added more flavor.  Now, it is very true that perhaps if I had added the salt originally, my results would have been different.  But honestly, I think my evaluation is that I prefer the non-vegetarian version better.  Apologies to all my vegetarian friends.  However, if anyone would like to try the recipe with the salt added, let me know and I'll send it to you and you can either comment with your results or let me know and I'll do an "update" post (or, if you want to write a guest post, I'll be happy to include it here).

So, ultimately, I think that because I recooked the soup, it messed up how many servings I should have gotten out of it.  The recipe says that it makes four to six servings, but I think I only got 4 out of it: one which I ate as the vegetarian  version and then three more that I ate after adding the pork.  But, look at that picture to the left: doesn't that look more thick and yummy than the watery version that I added the ham to above (sorry that the color is a little off in the picture, I was using my cell phone)?  Well, I think so.  I guess my final analysis is that this recipe wasn't that great and I probably won't bother trying to make it again, especially since I have several other split pea soup recipes that I can try.

So, for the sake of recipe analysis, let's pretend like I didn't add the pork so I'll estimate that you'd get about five servings out of this.  Each serving is less than 175 calories (so to make it a meal, you might actually want to have some bread with it, and a salad).  In terms of cost per serving, we already had bay leaves, sage, and cayenne pepper, so my cost per serving, had I followed the recipe in the end, would have only been about $1.72 per serving.  If you had to get all the spices, your costs would increase dramatically (to about $3.50 per serving), but in theory these are spices that you have on hand from previous recipes and such so it's not that expensive to make at all.

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