A couple of posts back I wrote about the special foods that can be made during this curious bend in the year when late summer and early autumn produce occupy the same stalls at the farmers' market. Before that moment is over, I wanted to squeeze in one more post—a simple and delicious soup made with the greens and squashes of autumn...and the tomatoes of summer.
The recipe is from a favorite little cookbook called Fresh from the Farmers' Market (by Janet Fletcher). For being so small, it is a surprising source of inspiration. I use it all the time. Sometimes I use the recipes as a starting point...and other times I follow a recipe exactly. This soup falls into the latter category. It is perfect, just as is.
One of the things I love about this soup is it offers the substance and cozy-ness of a bean soup, without the length of time needed to cook a pot of beans. It is perfect for that time of year when one day it's hot...and the next morning you wake up to gray skies and a chilly drizzle. The split peas only take about an hour to cook. No planning for an overnight or quick soak is needed.
Most importantly, it is delicious. The sweet split peas and squash contrast nicely with the salty pancetta, bitter greens and tangy tomatoes. Even if the beautiful golden color didn't lift your spirits, the lively flavors would. Add a wedge of cheese...and a loaf of crusty bread...and you have a perfect early autumn meal.
Yellow Split Pea Soup with Autumn Squash & Greens
2 T. olive oil
3 oz. pancetta, minced
1 large onion (10 to 12 oz.), minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. dried yellow split peas (14 oz.), picked over for stones and debris
1 sprig rosemary, 4 inches long
4 c. chicken stock or low-salt canned broth
4 c. water
Salt & pepper
2/3 lb. butternut, kabocha or other hard-shelled, orange-fleshed squash—peeled, seeded and cut into a 1/3-inch dice (to make 2 cups)
1/2 lb. tomatoes, peeled, seeded and neatly diced (1/3-inch)
1 bunch kale or chard (1/3 lb.), ribs removed and cut cross-wise in a 1/4-inch chiffonade
Olive oil for drizzling
Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over moderate heat. Add the pancetta and cook until most of the fat is rendered and it is beginning to crisp—2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and a pinch of salt and sweat until soft and sweet—about 10 minutes (reduce the heat if the onion begins to color). Add the split peas, rosemary, stock and water. Bring to a simmer, cover and regulate the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the peas are completely soft—45 minutes to an hour. Taste occasionally and remove the rosemary sprig when the rosemary flavor is strong enough (it should be subtle).
Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the squash, tomatoes and greens. Cover and continue to cook at a simmer until the squash and greens are tender—about 20 minutes. If the soup is thick, thin with broth or water. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil on each bowl, if you like.
Makes 2 quarts, serving 6.
(Recipe from Fresh from the Farmers' Market, Janet Fletcher)