T.S. Eliot famously wrote "April is the cruelest month." I think he was off by sixty days. February is the true long, dark, teatime of the soul (as another great writer Douglas Adams put it).
You've made it past the holidays, and if you live in the North, the snow is falling and melting and refreezing making a muck of the ground as the skies stay gray. There's the prospect of a long March and April to come before you get to sunny days, and just generally, you're starving for a bit of green to break up the brown and gray world outside.
I can't help with the outdoors (what do you think this is, Too Many Gardeners?), but I can give you nice bit of green for your dinner table. The picture of the Spinach and Pea soup above just doesn't do justice to how vibrant and verdant this soup is.
This recipe is adapted from one from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. We've talked about this book - even if you're primarily a carnivore, you should have Madison's book on your shelves.
From the original recipe, I swapped out carrots for a big parsnip, increased the onions, and changed the dairy to make it a bit more tangy and fresh tasting. You can use frozen spinach in this recipe if you wish, but I liked the taste of the fresh stuff. I did use frozen peas simply because there's no chance of finding fresh in Chicago this time of year without getting an adjustable rate mortgage to finance the purchase.
Probably the most remarkable aspect of this dish for me is that I didn't put any garlic in it. It isn't needed and would detract from the fresh flavor.
Spinach and Pea Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 big white onion, diced
6 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thinly
1 big parsnip (or two medium), peeled and sliced thinly
1 celery rib, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon dried marjoram or basil
1 bag of baby spinach, washed and spun dry
1 cup of peas
1/3 cup buttermilk
up to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper
Cut up all your vegetables. Heat the oil in a big soup pot. When it is hot, add the onions, scallions, parsnip, celery, marjoram/basil and stir. Add 1/2 cup of water and a pinch of salt and cover. Let stew for 5 minutes.
Add 5 cups of water and bring the mix to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 20 minutes with the top off.
Add the spinach and peas and cook just until the spinach is bright green, about 3 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and blend the soup in a food processor or with an immersion blender (much easier) until perfectly smooth.
Stir in the buttermilk. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Add lemon juice to taste 1/2 teaspoon at a time to brighten the flavor of the soup. Serve hot.
We enjoyed the soup with some goat brie on toast. The soup is very low fat so you can afford a minor indulgence on the side.