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Split pea soup is a perfect standby

| Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, 8:56 p.m.
Split Pea Soup
Tribune Media Services
Tribune Media Services
Split Pea Soup Tribune Media Services

Split soup is satisfying for cold days and evenings. I prefer using yellow peas, which I find to be prettier to look at and more delicate in flavor than the green variety. They are a perfect backdrop for more assertive ingredients like bacon and spices.

Split peas are a pea variety grown specifically for drying. They are often used for soup making because they act as a thickener and almost fall apart as they cook. Unlike beans, split peas don't need soaking, making this soup a perfect soup standby.

You'll be surprised at how harmonious the sweet yam and bold cumin flavors are in this soup. If you add more broth and thin it out, you could serve this soup as a first course.

Serve it alongside a green salad tossed with an assertive lemon vinaigrette. Bread is a must for this rustic meal. Serve sliced pears and sharp cheddar cheese for a perfect ending.

Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking, and also a James Beard awardwinning radio-show host.

Split Pea Soup With Yam and Cumin

Check for and discard pebbles and then rinse the peas in a large strainer before cooking.

For added flavor, add a peeled and diced parsnip or winter squash when you add the carrots.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium-size onion, finely chopped

2 ribs celery, sliced

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 medium-size yam, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

2 cups yellow or green split peas, rinsed and picked over

8 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 bacon slices or small ham hock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

½ teaspoon ground cumin

6 strips bacon, for garnish

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onion for 3 to 5 minutes or until softened. Add the celery, carrots and yam, and saute for another 3 minutes or until just slightly softened.

Add the split peas, broth, the 2 bacon slices or ham hock, salt, black pepper and cumin, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Partially cover and cook for about 50 to 60 minutes, or until the peas are tender. Remove the bacon slices or ham hock.

While the soup is cooking, place the 6 bacon strips in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook until crisp on each side, for about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel and drain. Break into pieces and reserve.

When the soup is finished cooking, coarsely puree the soup, using a hand blender right in the pot, just until the desired texture is reached. Taste for seasoning.

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the crisp bacon pieces. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

(The soups can be prepared up to 4 days in advance and refrigerated. You may also freeze the soup. Adjust the seasonings when you reheat the frozen soup.)

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