Monday, September 19, 2011

The Soup Project: Creamy Celery and Split Pea Soup with Carrots

Yesterday I put together a slide show presentation for the Sourdough Speaker Series at the North Cascade Institute. The harvest celebration dinner is scheduled for this coming Saturday, and as I perused the pictures, I ate this amazing celery soup soup I made on Sunday.

I can eat soup any time of day. The soup was as good as it gets, but as I sorted photos it was hard to resist writing about the soup. Or writing about about the past Saturday, where I spent part of the day at the Bellingham Community Food Co-op where an "eat local" barbecue of meat and veggie kabobs, a quinoa and black bean salad and grilled corn on the cob drew a crowd for lunch. I passed out samples of Garlicky Greens and met shoppers and fellow food writers. Check out Whatcom Locavore Nancy Ging's blog and Melissa Elkins, the Sassy Sampler and food co-op blogger. Also handing out samples of a cucumber salad was Tom Malterre a nutritionist and blogger and co-author of theWhole Life Nutrition Cookbook. Now there's an example of eating and working that totally works. Mostly the weather sunny but cool and soup would have been a great addition to this line up.

The Chordata Co-op--a bright spot just beyond The Bellis Fair Mall.

On the way to the co-op I'd stopped at the Whispering Winds Farm's new produce stand. If you haven't stopped by this place in Snohomish County, put it on your calendar. The produce is great and the prices are right. I love the refrigerator with the glass door that Char told me she got it at a garage sale. It's only open on the weekends right now. I got potatoes, celery, beets, zucchini and kale. I miscalculated how much time it would take me to stop and still make it on time, so I barely made it to the barbecue event on time.

I got the celery and I figured I'd pick up celeriac or celery root at the Bellingham co-op. Celeriac isugly--knobby and hairy-- and doesn't look like much at all, but peel the outside and the inside is creamy like potatoes with a hint of celery. In fact, it's great to mash with potatoes but I also love it in soup. Rent's Due Ranch in Stanwood sold it last weekend at the U-District market, and when I saw the celery at Willie Green's, I knew I'd celery soup would be on the menu this week. I just didn't figure it would be harder to get the farther north I traveled.

Eating locally isn't always that easy. You get an idea and suddenly can't find what you saw the week before. I couldn't find celery root at all in Bellingham. So I stopped at Skagit Valley Co-op in Mount Vernon on my way home. I scanned the produce section, spotted the celeriac from California and finally asked a guy working there:

"Do you have any locally grown celery root?"

He said he didn't think it grew well here, that he couldn't find any farmers who grew it. I didn't really want to sound like the local food snob, but I said, "Rent's Due Ranch in Stanwood grows it." This is actually why I don't do many Saturday events. I get spoiled by my own farmers.

And I was all stoked about making this soup. I love celery and I forgot to consider that celery may grow better in warmer weather. I settled for the stuff from California rather than take a chance on the Lake Forest Park market or the Ballard market the next day.

The recipe for this soup came from my book. And of course I changed it to fit my new vision. The thick creamy texture comes from a potato blended with split peas. The soup has a stick-to-your ribs feeling without adding lots of fat.

But the real star of this soup is celery. I couldn't wait to try the celery from Whispering Winds ever since Char showed me how she was growing it. It turns out her technique had a few flaws--the celery can get too hot on sunny days but that's the great part of small market farming. You can try things out and if you lose a crop for one reason or another, you have other crops to back it up. Char did have enough (2 cups, sliced celery) for my soup.

This is celery at the U-District market grown by Willie Green's Organic farm in Monroe. Before I met Char, I got almost all my celery in the fall from Willie Green's. I think Char's celery may be just a hint sweeter. I love the crunch, the slightly bitter tones and the fact that celery is so good at lowering your blood pressure. The only thing I hate about celery is the season is way too short.

Here's the recipe adapted from my book:

Creamy Celery and Split Pea Soup with Carrots
(Serves 4)

1 celery root, peeled and diced
1 fresh lemon, juice and zest
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 shallots diced, or 1 cup diced sweet onions
1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled and sliced
Pinch of cayenne
2 cups sliced celery
1 sweet tart apple, cored, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 medium white potato, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, 1 sliced and 1 grated
1/2 cup split peas
4 cups stock or water
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Soak celery root in water with 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

2. Heat a soup pot or pressure cooker over medium heat. Add oil, shallots and garlic. Stir, reduce heat and cook the shallots until they are soft--about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cayenne. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Add celery, apple cardamom, potato and carrots. Stir until all vegetables are coated with oil. Stir in split peas and water. If using a pressure cooker, secure lid and bring to pressure. Cook 10 minutes; remove from heat and let pressure come down naturally. If using a soup pot, bring soup to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes or until peas and potatoes are very soft.

4. Blend 1 cup of the soup (without carrots) in a blender until smooth and creamy. Stir into the soup. Add remaining lemon juice and balance with honey to taste. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Garnish with grated carrots.

I asked my Cooking Assistant if he wanted to come and pose with the soup.

Before I knew it, he reached down and grabbed the whole grain bread. And as he grabbed it sank into soup.

I think all he heard was "Would you like to help yourself!"

You don't really need to bob for the bread to enjoy this soup.


Colleen Schwartz said...

Debra -
It was great to meet you and chat at the BBQ event at the Bellingham Coop. I've been really enjoying your book with the mixture of vegetarian recipes, farmer profiles, and eating-local suggestions.

Colleen Schwartz
Bellingham Vegetarian Supper Club

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Hi Colleen--I was so happy to meet you too. Love the vegetarian supper club' what a great idea. Makes me wish I still lived in Bellingham!

Joan said...

I loved living in Bellingham. What a great place. Thanks for mentioning celeriac...I've never known how to use it or try it but I love the mashed potatoes idea. I'll give it a go.

Nancy Ging said...

Heh, bread bobbing! A new fall game? Your Cooking Assistant is a clever one.

We sometimes have celeriac here in Whatcom County. I think it's a little early right now for us, though. Last year I bought some in early November.

P.S. Thanks for the link!

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Hey Nancy, thanks so much for letting me know how far north celeriac grows. I don't always think the produce managers know exactly. Plus I think the variety we see in Seattle is different from the variety in Portland where they typically have bigger roots. It won't be the only time I link to your blog, you have great local food information to share.