My friends who know me understand that I go through phases. I become obsessed. For a long time, I made soups several times per week. Soups are nourishing and comforting. They can be whatever you want them to be: thick or thin, sweet or savory, cold or hot. I love them year-round, but especially when it's cold outside. I also love them because making them is a great way to clean out the refrigerator!! Few soups are harmed by the addition of a potato or some lonely broccoli crowns. They are also wonderful because you can use canned stock and still manage to make a decent soup. I admit, I do like to make my own stock, but that does require planning and time. I always keep Swanson's 99% fat free chicken stock handy. Or the low-sodium College Inn chicken broth. (There was a time when using canned stock would have been anathema to me. Times change . . . )
This past winter, my favorite became split pea soup. My father turned me on to split pea soup when I was a child. Daddy used a pressure cooker to cook the split peas and the ham hocks. Daddy's was on the thick side. And if memory serves me, he would add dumplings. The soup was tasty, but the dumplings seemed a little too heavy to me. I still haven't mastered the art of using a pressure cooker, but I did manage to master making split pea soup. It's quick and very easy, and the pay-back is huge. :-)
I like to use ham hocks, but you could just as easily use smoked turkey wings if you want to stay away from pork. I soak the split peas in water that I boiled. If you do this, then they're ready to be used in about 30 minutes or so. While I don't add dumplings, I do like to add potatoes to my split pea soup. And I use fresh herbs, such as thyme, bay leaf and rosemary. And of course, plenty of carrots, celery and onion.
1 bag of split peas, soaked for 30 minutes in water
1 tablespoon of olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped -- use the leaves, too
1 very large onion, chopped
3 ham hocks
7-10 cups of chicken stock (depends on how big your soup pot is)
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
several sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 length of rosemary, chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in the soup pot over a low-medium flame. Add the onion and saute until it becomes translucent. Add the carrots and celery and saute until the vegetables are soft.
Add the ham hocks, the split peas (drained), seasonings (minus the salt), and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down. After about 20 minutes, add the diced potato. Add salt if necessary. Depending on the saltiness of the ham hocks and the chicken stock, you may not need to add any.
I like to serve a big garden salad with the soup.