Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Split Pea Soup" A Rich, Warm, and Yummy Comfort Food

It’s the beginning of November and the temperatures are getting colder. Last weekend Long Island even had some snow! It’s that time of year again when the Fall season is upon us. The leaves are falling and it is a time to be with family in a warm and comfortable home.

My brother Chris & myself
As I look back to when I was much younger, I am reminded that my mom would always have comfort food for dinner, especially when it was cold, rainy, windy or snowy outside. To me comfort food is like a big hug, that just wraps it’s arms around you and makes you feel safe and at home. I recently found a photo of myself and my brother Chris when we were very young. These would be the days that comfort foods were defiantly needed. Some of my mom’s favorite foods that she would prepare for us would be, lentils, chickpeas, and dry peas, plus many other hearty vegetables. These meals were sometimes mixed with pasta, like the lentils and chickpeas, and the dry peas were made into a very thick and hearty nutritious soup. It was a lot of work to cook homemade food, rather than using a can or jar. My mom knew that it was worth the extra time to eat and enjoy a healthy meal. Speaking of soups, I just found out that November 7th-13th, is “National Split Pea Soup Week.” So, stay a while and lets explore some information that you may not know about split peas.

It is a food holiday that is only celebrated in the United States since 1969. But split pea soup recipes in some form or another, are enjoyed all over the world. North Dakota and Montana farmers grow 84% of all the dried peas, making them our top producers in the United States. This holiday is referred to as a “National” day, however, there are no congressional records or presidential proclamations for this day. Many calendar and internet sites share information about this holiday by talking about growing these beans in their garden, plus sharing many recipes.

Pea soup is made from dried peas. Many cultures have variations of this soup. The color of many varieties of peas come in a grayish-green or yellow color depending on the region they are cultivated in. Pea soup has been eaten since antiquity. According to a source, the Greeks and Romans were cultivating this legume about 500 to 400 BC. During that era, vendors in the streets of Athens were selling hot pea soup.

“Pea Soup” usually means a perfectly smooth puree. “Split Pea Soup” is a slightly thinner soup with visible peas, pieces of ham and vegetables (mostly carrots). This is done by using dried, green split peas. Many cookbooks contain a recipe or two, but pea soup has no cultural importance in the United States. It does however play a role in the light-hearted tradition of serving green-colored foods on St. Patrick’s Day.

As consumers become more aware of the tremendous health benefits of peas, we are encouraged to eat this popular staple food and share it with our friends and family. So pull out those cookbooks and try a new bean recipe, or cook a nice pot to share with your whole family.

I have listed “ 7 Reasons To Use Dry Peas, Lentils and Chickpeas.”  
1. Peas, lentils, and chickpeas are excellent sources of fiber.
2. Peas, lentils, and chickpeas are a good source of protein.
3. Peas and lentils are fat-free and chickpeas are low in fat.
4. Peas and lentils are sodium free and chickpeas are low in sodium.
5. Lentils and chickpeas are a good source of iron.
6. Lentils are a good source of potassium.
7. Peas, lentils, and chickpeas are all gluten-free ingredients.

My recipe this week, you guessed it, “Split Pea Soup.” This recipe is what my mom uses and is courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito, “Ciao Italia“. For starters, you need a meaty ham bone. So the next time you buy a ham on the bone, save the bones, or freeze them and when you have enough, make this wonderful rich thick soup, that will leave you warm inside and asking for more.

Split Pea Soup”

Serves 10 to 12 people

1 pound of split peas, washed and sorted
3 quarts of water
1 large ham bone
4 large onions, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of fresh oregano or dried
2 teaspoons of instant chicken bouillon
1/2 teaspoon of Black Pepper
1 bay leaf
3 1/2 cups of sliced carrots
3 cups of finely chopped celery

In a deep pot, combine the peas, water, ham bone, onion, bouillon and the
seasonings. Simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the ham bone and trim off all the meat, chop it finely and return the meat to the pot. Stir in the carrots and celery and simmer the soup, uncovered, for about 2 1/2 hours or until the soup is thick. Serve with hot crusty bread and a crisp green salad.
***A thoughtful reminder – don’t forget the time change is coming up. Don’t worry, this time change gives you an extra hour of sleep. This weekend, at 2:00 AM, on November 6th, Daylight Savings Time will end, and revert back to Daylight Standard Time in the United States. Remember the saying, “Spring forward, Fall back.”

Till Next Time……
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