Soup for the stars


Butterhead lettuce and fresh shelling peas offer two of the most delicate and satisfying tastes of early summer. Now is the moment we can eat humongous bowls of melt-in-the-mouth salad and shell and eat tender peas until we are full or our hands are tired. Once I have gorged on these vegetables separately I combine them in this simple Lettuce and Pea soup. Capers and curry powder add a little pizzazz to the subtle, sweet flavor of the vegetables.

This soup has a lot going for it. It is easy to make, the color is beautiful, a soft, warm green, and it is good for you. When I make this recipe in the summer when lettuce and peas are at their best I serve it cold with a large dollop of yogurt or sour cream spooned on top. I’ve also made the soup off-season with decent lettuce and frozen peas and served it hot. Either way the results have been excellent.

Here is what you’ll need:

1/4 cup butter, 1 cup minced onion, 1 1/2 pounds Boston lettuce, usually two good-sized heads, 4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth, 10 ounces of fresh peas, two generous cups, 3 oz capers, drained1/2 teaspoon of salt 1/4 teaspoon of pepper,1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 2-3 tablespoons of curry powder

To begin, melt the butter in a heavy soup pot over medium high heat and add the minced onions. Saute the onions for five minutes, stirring now and then, until they are tender but not browned. Meanwhile wash the lettuce, let it drain and break it up into pieces. Once the onion is tender, add the lettuce and cook, continuing to stir until the lettuce is wilted.

Now all the rest of the ingredients go in: the chicken or vegetable broth, the peas, the capers, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and curry powder. This is a forgiving soup and the proportions of peas to lettuce or the amounts of the seasonings can be adjusted according to what you like or what you have on hand. I use Swanson’s organic chicken broth if I do not have homemade and I’ve substituted a10 ounce package of frozen baby peas when I haven’t had access to good-quality fresh ones.

Heat the soup to a boil over high heat then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for thirty minutes stirring occasionally. Let the soup cool down enough so you can handle it easily and then puree it in a blender or food processor a little at a time. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

This recipe makes two quarts, plenty for four large main course servings or six average servings. The soup can be doubled if you are serving a large crowd. I imagine the soup would freeze well but I don’t know because whenever I make it there are no leftovers. Why would there be when it tastes like a clear, star-filled night after a sultry, summer afternoon?