Kitchen MacGyver: Leek and Pea Summer Soup

Homemade soups can be nutritional powerhouses and satisfying meals that can often fill the stomach with fewer calories than other lunch or dinner options. When it’s warm outside, I favor room temperature or chilled soups whose contents are raw, boiled quickly on the stove, or come from leftover grilled or roasted veggies and protein. Toasted nuts; leftover rice, cous cous or potatoes, or torn pieces of bread or pita can act as thickening agents to summertime soups that come together quickly with the help of an immersion blender, stand-up blender or food processor.

Green peas provide protein and carbohydrates, B vitamins, iron, potassium, vitamin A, folate and calcium. Unless you can peas at their peak from a farmer’s market or grocery store, I’d advise using frozen peas because the peas are picked, shucked and frozen at their peak (and then you don’t have to spend hours removing the peas form their pods). Leeks, which come from the same family as onions and garlic, contain little-known cardiovascular benefits: They contain polyphenols, antioxidants that protect blood vessels and cells from oxidative damage, and kaempferol, a flavonoid that reportedly protects blood vessel linings from damage.

This leek and pea soup is best when it can sit in the refrigerator for two hours before serving; it’s fantastic when scooped up with warm whole-wheat toasts.

Leek and Pea Summer Soup  

2 leeks, white and light green parts only, inside leaves rinsed thoroughly to remove sand, and chopped

1 cup frozen peas

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, if desired

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, add leeks and cook for about three minutes. Add peas and cook for two minutes. Remove from heat and drain leeks and peas in a colander with very small holes. Add leeks and peas and all other ingredients to a blender and, with the top on tightly and a kitchen towel placed between your hand and the top of the blender, push down lightly on the top of the blender (to avoid the hot contents from exploding out) and whizz until smooth. Pour into a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature on the counter. Cover with aluminum foil and chill in the refrigerator for two hours before serving.

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