October is the month to pull out the soup pot. Mine is made of bonded stainless steel, holds about 3 quarts (3 liters), and has been on the shelf since spring. October days in New York are cool, crisp, and can be spectacularly beautiful. Except when it rains. And sometimes it rains a lot. Either way makes good soup weather. Bean based soups are easy to make but time consuming because beans require soaking time. Quicker and just as satisfying are lentil and split pea soup. Today it is going to be green split peas. October is a good month for roots, bulbs, and tubers and no split pea soup would be complete without carrot, onion, and potato. Some recipes call for ham hocks, pancetta, or bacon. These are delicious, but my recipe works with just vegetables. A freshly chopped garnish at the end, aromatics added during the cooking, and the right amount of salt are my flavoring agents of choice. Yes, I use salt and I am going to tell you why. But first the recipe.
1 pound (450g) dry split peas, rinsed, drained
2 small or 1 large yellow onion (250g) peeled, chopped
2 medium or 1 really big carrot (170g) peeled, chopped
1 potato (160g) scrubbed, quartered, eyes removed, skin intact
4 cups (1 liter) low sodium chicken stock, brick pack is fine
4 – 6 cups (1 – 1 ½ liter) additional water
2 teaspoons Kosher style flake salt (7g)
Aromatics – thyme, oregano, garlic (optional)
Garnish – fresh scallion, fresh parsley, freshly ground black pepper
Put split peas into the soup pot, add potato, carrot, onion, stock, and water. Bring to boil, partially cover, and gently simmer over low heat for about an hour or until the peas are completely soft. Add salt and aromatics about half way through the cooking process. Pass the soup through food mill. Alternatively, blend using an immersion blender or an old fashioned stainless steel egg beater. Add more water for a thinner soup and adjust seasoning. Garnish with fresh cilantro, parsley, scallions, and black pepper.
makes about 12 cups (3 liters) ● total cost $5.00 ● $1.70 per liter
portioning information ● 150 calories per cup ● 230 calories per bowl
On to salt now. Nothing is new about salt being controversial. What is different this time around is the substance of debate. Salt the mineral is tangible, visible, tactile, and real. Sodium the element is elusive, conceptual, and measureable only by calculation or laboratory analysis. Leaving aside the legitimate debate over health consequences of too much sodium, the measurement logistics are challenging.
When the 2010 Dietary Guidelines are finally released later on this year, sodium recommendations will probably be set lower than under previous guidelines. New York City formed a partnership at the beginning of 2010, the National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI), to guide a voluntary reduction of sodium levels in packaged and restaurant food by 2014. Meanwhile, the restaurant and food industries continue the search for culinary salvation – a sodium free substitute for salt.
As a cook, I love salt. Powerful, robust, an exceptionally effective flavor enhancer, salt does the job. Because of its strength, salt easily overwhelms other more delicate flavors so I have always used a light hand and treated salt with respect.
Salt added in the proportions noted above meets current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) criteria for low sodium and falls below the proposed 2014 target set by the NSRI guidelines for soup. In fact the amount could be increased to just under 2 ¾ teaspoons flaked Kosher style salt and still meet both standards. Serious cooks know that salting to taste is more a matter of personal preference than a function of software analysis. Those of us who salt intuitively may need to be more attentive to tracking our use. As sodium comes under increased scrutiny, our approach to measurement may benefit from analysis. More to come on salt and sodium …
Nutrition Facts per 1 cup serving* (240g): Calories 140, Fat 0g, Saturated Fat 0g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 230mg, Carbohydrate 24g, Fiber 8g, Protein 10g. Vitamin A 40%, Vitamin C 10%, Calcium 2%, Iron 8%. Excellent Source: vitamin A as beta-carotene, fiber. Good Source protein, thiamine, folate. *Serving sizes are reference amounts defined and regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however, individual calorie needs may vary.