"For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest that is sleeping in the unplowed ground."
—LYNDON B. JOHNSONSPRING PEA SOUP
There's still a little chill in the air when the first peas are ready for picking. This soup is perfect in the spring when young lettuces are around.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced and well washed
6 cups tender green lettuce leaves, well washed and dried
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
2 cups shelled fresh green peas (see Tidbit)
3/4 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until tender.
Add the lettuce and mint and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lettuce is very tender.
Stir in the peas, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the peas are tender and the flavors have blended.
Working in 2 batches, transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Add the cream and lemon juice and blend. Serve hot.
TIDBIT: To get 2 cups of shelled peas, you'll need to start with about 2 £ds of peas in the pod, so feel free to use frozen peas here (we'll never tell).DEEP-FRIED BABY ARTICHOKES WITH ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE
The saying goes that spring showers bring forth the flowers, and the last time we checked, this seemed to still be true. The artichoke is technically a flower bud that has not yet bloomed, so it's a perfect way to add a little bit of the tantalizing season to your plate. This sauce can easily be doubled or tripled and is great tossed with a bowl of pasta.
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 large red bell pepper
1/4 cup raw (skin-on) almonds
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 pound baby artichokes
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Preheat the broiler with the rack 4 inches from the heat source.
In a small saucepan of boiling water, cook the garlic for 2 minutes to blanch. Drain.
Cut the pepper vertically into flat panels. Place the panels, skin-side up, on a broiler pan and broil for 10 minutes, or until the skin is blackened. Transfer the peppers to a plate, skin-side down. When cool enough to handle, peel. Transfer to a food processor and add the blanched garlic, almonds, olive oil, water, tomato paste, smoked paprika, salt, and 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice, and puree.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice to a large bowl of cold water (this is "acidulated water"). Snap off the dark outer leaves of the artichokes until you're down to paler green leaves. Trim the very bottom of the stem and, with a paring knife, remove the outer layer of the stem. Cut about 1/2 inch off the tips of the artichoke leaves. Halve the artichokes lengthwise and place in the bowl of acidulated water to prevent them from discoloring.
In a deep saucepan, pour in the vegetable oil to come up 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. (Alternatively, if you don't have a thermometer, drop a little flour into the oil; if it sizzles, the oil is ready.)
Lift the artichokes from the water and dry on paper towels. Working in batches, deep-fry the artichokes for 8 to 10 minutes, or until crispy. Drain on paper towels and serve the sauce on the side for dipping.GREEN HERB SALAD DRESSING
MAKES ABOUT 3/4 CUP
We like this tossed with soft buttery lettuce such as Boston. (And if no one is watching, we use it as a dip for potato chips!)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh dill fronds
2 tablespoons snipped chives
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
In a food processor or blender, combine the basil, mint, dill, chives, and oil and pulse until finely chopped. Add the buttermilk, lemon juice, and salt and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use or for up to 1 week.
Copyright © 2014 by Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge and Sandy Gluck. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.