Simplest Split Pea Soup

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: About 11/2 hours

Meat-eaters automatically associate split peas with ham bones, so many vegetarian versions of split pea soup add a smoky taste through smoked chiles like dried chipotle or ancho. Tossing a piece of toasted seaweed into the pot is another way to add a meaty dimension. The truth is you don’t need either. Why muddle that distinctive pea flavor?

Split peas fall apart quickly, and it’s easy to end up with a soup that’s too thick, so watch it (you can always stir in more water to thin it out). If you want something more filling, finish each bowl with a handful of Croutons or a scoop of cooked rice, barley, or cracked wheat. Or try the vegetable-loaded Caribbean variation.

2 cups dried green split peas, washed and picked over

6 cups vegetable stock or water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

01 Put the split peas and stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to low, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peas are very soft, 45 to 60 minutes.

02 Mash the mixture with a fork or potato masher. (For an ultra-smooth soup, use an immersion blender or cool the mixture slightly, pour into a blender container, and pure carefully.) Reheat the soup, adding more stock or water if it’s too thick. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.

Variation

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Pantry Vegetables. Here’s how it’s done in much of the Caribbean: Start by chopping 1 onion, 1 carrot, and 1 celery stalk into 1/2-inch pieces. Put 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, into a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Substitute 11/2 cups yellow split peas for the green; add them and the stock to the pan. After cooking for about 20 minutes, add 2 cups peeled and coarsely chopped sweet potato or yam, green plantains, pumpkin, taro root, or cassava or any combination of these. Continue cooking until all the vegetables are soft, another 25 to 40 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning; you can leave the soup chunky or mash it a little if you like. Serve with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and a squeeze of lime.