A Tale of Two Soups

Ok, so this is my third blog in a row about soup.  I guess you can tell how much I like it. Especially in the winter, there is something so homey to have a pot of soup simmering on the stove. My first soup is one that you make from scratch, Green Split Pea.  The second soup is a lazy cooks version of Creamy Tomato Bisque.


Split peas are a great source of protein and are also very lean and healthy.  The split pea is known to be a natural food source that contains some of the highest amounts of fiber which is known to help the digestive system and to make people feel full and satiated.  So there is a reason your mother told you to always eat your peas!  This soup has a couple of important ingredients that you won’t find in most recipes.  Cayenne pepper – a good dose of cayenne pepper, just enough to give the soup a little zing.  Cloves – a dash of ground cloves really enhances the flavor of the soup.  Grains of Paradise – also known as Guinea or Melequeta Pepper.  Grains of Paradise are the seeds of a pyramid-shaped pod grown primarily on the coast of West Africa. A relative of cardamom, they have a peppery taste with a lingering heat.  You grind the Grains of Paradise just like you do freshly ground black peppercorns and are a good substitute for ground black pepper when you want a more subtle pepper flavor.  Check out “My Spice Cabinet” to see where you can find Grains of Paradise.  If you can’t find them or don’t want to go to the trouble, just substitute a little ground cardamom and freshly ground black pepper.


My friend, Marjorie, shared with me her recipe for roasted tomato soup.  I made it this summer when tomatoes were plentiful and full of sun-ripend flavor.  In the winter it is hard to find tomatoes that taste like anything, so I decided to cheat and make a Creamy Tomato Bisque Soup using canned soup with my own additions.  I used Amy’s Organic Soups Chunky Tomato Bisque which on its own is a little sweet for me.  I added several things to the soup that got it to the flavor I was looking for.  Balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar – the balsamic vinegar gives the soup a deeper tomato taste and the red wine vinegar brightens up the flavor and reduces the “sweet” taste somewhat.   San Marzano tomato paste – this comes in a tube and it only takes a little to give it a sun-ripend tomato flavor. Cayenne pepper – just to make it a little sassy.  Fresh thyme – I think basil is “expected” and thyme is a little more subtle.


I hope that you will give them a try for a easy and pleasing lunch or dinner for your family and friends.


Green Split Pea Soup

1 lb. green split peas

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 ham shanks (about 2 or 3 lbs.)

1 large potato, peeled & diced

8 cups chicken broth

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup creme fraiche

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Dash of ground cloves

Salt and ground black pepper to taste or use combination of freshly ground black pepper and freshly ground Grains of Paradise.


Rinse  peas.  In a heavy dutch oven, saute celery, onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is tender but not browned.  Add rinsed peas, ham shanks, potato, ground black pepper and/or ground Grains of Paradise, chicken broth and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer until peas are very tender, about 1 hour.  Remove and discard bay leaves.  Remove ham shanks, allow to cool and cut the meat from the bones and discard the bones.  Dice the meat and set aside.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in the food processor and return to pot.  Stir in meat and creme fraiche.  Cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Check for salt (broth and ham shanks have salt in them so don’t add any salt until the end of the cooking process) and add cayenne pepper, start with a little less than 1/4 tsp. and check for heat before adding more – to your taste.  Serves 6 to 8.


Creamy Tomato Bisque Soup


1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 cans Amy’s Organic Soups – Chunky Tomato Bisque

1 tbsp. San Marzano tomato paste

1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped

1 tbsp. good balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 or 3 dashes of tabasco sauce

1/4 cup creme fraiche

Cayenne pepper, just a dash or to your taste

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


In a large pot, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until the onions are tender, not brown.  Add all 4 cans of soup to onions and garlic along with tomato paste, chopped thyme leaves, balsamic and red wine vinegars and tabasco.  Bring to a simmer and cook, covered for 30 minutes.  Use immersion blender or food processor to puree the soup.  Add creme fraiche, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Add a few dashs, or more if desired, of cayenne pepper.  Serve in bowls with a crostini with a spread of goat cheese floating on the top.


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