An Earth Day Celebration That's Easy 'Peasy': Fresh Pea Soup with Garlic Croutons

Every day should be Earth Day (hooray!), but April 22nd is the designated day on the solar calendar.  In celebration of Mother Earth, I've decided to make a seasonal dish that is chock-full of fresh, local ingredients: leeks, onions, peas, mint, scallions...three cheers for the spring's bounty!  

Fresh Pea Soup (Courtesy of Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home)
Yield: 6 servings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade (I made homemade stock, but you can use a good store-bought too.  The original recipe uses chicken stock.)
5 cups freshly shelled peas or 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen peas
2/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup freshly chopped chives
Garlic croutons, for serving (recipe follows)
Heat the butter in a large saucepan, add the leeks and onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the peas are tender. (Frozen peas will take only 3 minutes.) Off the heat, add the mint, salt, and pepper.

Puree the soup in batches: place 1 cup of soup in a blender, place the lid on top, and puree on low speed.  With the blender still running, open the venthole in the lid and slowly add more soup until the blender is three-quarters full.  Pour the soup into a large bowl and repeat until all the soup is pureed. Whisk in the creme fraiche and chives and taste for seasoning.  (I actually added the chives and continued to puree the soup.  Then I added the creme fraiche.) Serve hot with garlic croutons.

A Note: I made two batches of this soup-- using different peas in each.  You can use fresh or frozen peas.  My suggestion is to get sweet peas (fresh peas at the right time of season or sweet frozen peas).  They go really well with the mint. Enjoy! 

Garlic Croutons (Courtesy of Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home)
Makes 2 cups
1/2 loaf good bakery white bread, sliced 1/2-inch thick (I used some left over French baguette and removed the crust with a bread knife.)
1 large garlic clove
2 tablespoons good olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Remove the crust from the bread slices and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
Crush the garlic and discard the peel.  In a medium sautรฉ pan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic.  Cook for about 1 minute, until the garlic starts to brown, and then discard the garlic.  Add the bread cubes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until browned on all sides.