Saturday, April 11, 2009

Elixir of Fresh Peas and Radish Butter Sandwiches

Spring at the farmer's market is in full swing. The stalls were overflowing with strawberries, baby lettuce, asparagus, spring onions, green garlic, fava beans, radishes and english peas. The season for english peas is so short, so I couldn't pass them up. Aside from being delicious, they also provide great entertainment for a 3 year old who always insists on helping.

Don't get me wrong. I love that Ella is interested in food and cooking. It's just that most of the time her helping involves much more mess or adding ingredients to the wrong dishes. A while back I was multitasking, making a pasta sauce for dinner and some lemon curd for a dessert. The pasta sauce was cooking, and I had my measuring cup full of lemon juice for the curd. I turned around to grab a spoon out of a drawer and I heard Ella say "Look, I did it!" She had poured the whole measuring cup full of lemon juice into the pasta sauce! She was standing there proudly holding the empty measuring cup with a big smile on her face. Oh, the adventures of cooking with a toddler...

So in addition to the peas, I also bought some beautiful spring onions. They are rather elegant looking, dare I say sexy. And the radishes were beautiful shades of pastel, irresistible. I've recently fallen in love with radishes, smearing them with butter and sprinkling with sea salt. But the idea of a radish butter to smear on bread sounded like the perfect accompaniment for a simple pea soup.

Elixir of Fresh Peas
(adapted from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison)

I love the name of this soup. It conjures up the image of an alchemist stirring unknown ingredients in a cauldron to produce a prized liquid. And I would say that this soup could be considered just that. It is like Spring in a spoonful. It takes a bit of time to shell the peas, but once that is done, the soup comes together quickly. It tastes like the essence of fresh peas. The addition of a little truffle oil at the end adds an earthy complexity that compliments the sweetness of the peas beautifully.

1 bunch scallions or 2 small leeks, thinly sliced
5 large parsley stems with leaves
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds english peas
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup thinly sliced spring onion or young leek
1/2 teaspoon sugar
truffle oil

To make the stock, bring 1 quart water to a boil. As it's heating, add the scallions, parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add about 3 cups of pea pods as you shell them. Once the water comes to a boil, lower the heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, then strain.

Melt the butter in a soup pot and add the sliced onion. Cook over medium heat for about a minute, then add 1/2 cup of the stock so that the onion stews without browning. After 4-5 minutes, add the peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the sugar. Pour in 2 1/2 cups of the stock, bring to a boil, and simmer for 3 minutes, or until the peas are soft and cooked through, larger peas may take a bit longer.

Transfer the soup to a blender. Drape a towel over the lid and give a few short pulses to make sure it won't splatter. Then puree at high speed for 1 minute. Pour into soup bowls and serve immediately, adding a few drops of the truffle oil to each bowl.

4-6 servings.

Radish Butter for Radish Sandwiches
(adapted from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison)

6 small to medium radishes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
sea salt

Wash and trim the radishes and chop in half or quarters. If the leaves are tender and fresh, set a dozen or so aside, stems removed. Chop the leaves. There should be about 1/2 cup.

Add the butter, radishes, lemon zest and a pinch of sea salt to a mini food processor and process until the radishes are finely chopped and a sort of paste has formed. Stir in the radish leaves. Spread on slices of crusty baguette and serve.

makes 1/2 cup


  1. Oh my lord, that pea elixir sounds amazing!!! I never would have thought of radish butter, but it sounds interesting. I love the light in your kitchen... beautiful photographs.

  2. Thanks Marie! I would highly recommend the radish butter, or you could simply put slices of radish on bread with butter and sprinkle with sea salt. It's one of my new favorite things:)

  3. We are behind - fresh peas a few weeks away - but am bookmarking this. So pretty and original and using the tastes of spring.

  4. Yes, Claudia you should definitely make this. It will be even better with the first peas of the season. Let me know how it turns out:)

  5. Mmmmm....... green soup. I love peas. The radish butter looks good, too.

    For someone that purportedly hates to write, you seem highly comfortable with the written word.

  6. whoa... your spring is definitively ahead of us. the asparagus are barely starting, the peas are a month away and it'll be a few weeks for radishes in my garden. The farmers who use hoophouses do not radishes for sale though...

    I particularly like the use of the pea pods to flavor the base...

  7. Well, peas in their pods, radishes with butter and salt and your beautiful aspargus tipped header are all I need really.
    Off to read about strawberries and dig into your archives.

  8. Radish butter sandwiches? AMAZING! I eat lots of radishes with butter. This is so obviously the next step.