Cheating-on-Winter Pea Soup

French Friday’s with Dorie

Cheating-on-Winter Pea Soup

My grandmother made two kinds of soup.  One was the kind that comes out of a red and white can and the other was something she called “refrigerator soup”.  The can kind was always Campbell’s and if we were lucky it would be Tomato with Rice, our favorite.  If we were not so lucky she would treat us to one of her now infamous soup ‘recipes’ that involved a combination of several differing cans of Campbell’s soup (such as the infamous Lobster Bisque Babs.)

Refrigerator Soup got its name from the fact that it was made using whatever she happened to have on hand in her refrigerator at the time. She would never buy anything to make soup and never followed a recipe. If it was in the refrigerator, it could be made into soup.  Half a baked potato, some leftover steamed broccoli from a doggy bag, 2 pieces of breakfast sausage and a scrap of stale cheese could become a pretty delicious soup in her hands. The downside is you had to take caution from liking any particular batch of refrigerator soup too much as the one thing you could say with certainty about it was that you would never get to have it that way again.  Ever.

Nothing ever went to waste at my grandmother’s house (this is the woman who could turn orange rinds into candy gifts for her friends) and refrigerator soup was a key strategic element to bag of tricks. She would scold you and either remind you about the starving children in China and share stories of the Great Depression with you if you left any scraps on your plate.  Then, those scraps would become soup or if they were not actually soup worthy (a rarity) they would flavor her next batch of  stock.

Refrigerator soup was pureed or sometimes it was cubed or chunky but it was always good and never appeared random.  Thinking back on it I wonder now why she ever felt the need to buy soup in a can  when she could turn kitchen scraps to soup gold so easily.  I suppose she had the idea in her head that canned soup was actually a luxury in that way that only someone of her generation could view such a  thing.

Cheating-on-Winter Pea Soup

Cheating-on-Winter Pea Soup

This week’s French Friday with Dorie assignment reminded me of my granmother’s refrigerator soup in that it too is made from stuff you might just happen to find in your refrigerator.  Half a bag of peas, an onion, some old lettuce.  Granny would have laughed at me for driving to the market to buy a bag of frozen peas in order to make it. In the car on my way I could hear her voice saying to me “you don’t need to buy anything!  Just use that block of spinach you’ve had in the freezer for over a year now!  You can garnish with some chopped up almonds.” Adding lettuce to the brew would have really pleased her.  Its something I never would have thought to do with soup but here it lends an element of freshness to what might have just as easily tasted like canned split pea without it.  Good soup Dorie!


Cheating-on-Winter Pea Soup

Yield: 4 bowls

Cheating-on-Winter Pea Soup

adapted from Bon Appetit

This is what you will need:

  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 3 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 8 ounces frozen peas (do not thaw)
  • 4 cups (lightly packed) sliced romaine lettuce (1/2 of medium head)
  • Crème fraîche or sour cream
  • Crumbled cooked bacon

This is how you make it:

  1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion; sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add 3 cups broth; bring to boil. Stir in peas and lettuce.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until peas are tender and flavors blend, about 10 minutes.
  5. Cool slightly.
  6. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth.
  7. Return soup to same saucepan and bring to simmer, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin soup to desired consistency.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Divide soup among 4 bowls.
  10. Top with dollop of crème fraîche and/or bacon.

Cheating-on-Winter Pea Soup

About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don't know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]" means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small 'boom' in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a "food blog" or even myself a "food blogger".

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  1. That´s the thing with leftover recipes, they can never be duplicated, and sometimes they come out ridiculously good. I ended up adding more peas and arugula to this soup. I like your cup of soup!

  2. Isn’t it nice to be able to have your grandmother still talking to you in your head? Beautiful photo.

  3. I think living through the Great Depression honed in our grandparents a very practical serving innovative streak – a gift born out of necessity.

    Gramma’s sayings pop into my head often and I am sure she would spend a lot of time wondering about me.

    Lovely soup, indeed.

  4. I have, in my life, seen certain body parts that fit no other description than “lobster bisque babs.” Scarred, I tell you. And you have managed to make pea soup look positively luminous! No easy feat, that.

  5. So, so pretty Trevor 🙂

  6. Your grandmother sounds like my grandmother and mother. Never waste food…there are people starving all over the world. Funny how they could turn out the most marvelous meals with the simplest of ingredients! Your pea soup looks lovely, Trevor. And your photos are just beautiful!!

  7. Your Grandmother sounds amazing. What talent to take items from your fridge and turn them into a delicious meal. Your soup looks wonderful and delicious.

  8. When my Father was a little boy, his father, a banker, lost all his money as well as everyone in the little Iowa town’s money during the Great Depression. That humiliation and the resulting poverty influenced my Dad’s entire Life. Most of the time, in a good way. He made Life safe and stable for us. But, to this day, I still wash out plastic baggies (honest), use up all my Leftovers, turn lights out as I leave a room, use coupons, and on and on. Your Post made me smile at the memory of a good man who lived a good Life. And, your soup is a lovely shade of green and looks delicious.

    • We wash out the baggies too Mary! I’m getting better at never throwing anything out but not so good at coupons as I find they only have me buying things I wouldn’t otherwise use. If my memories inspired your own then I am truly joyful today!

  9. The grandmas…they are laughing at us a litte bit. With a twinkle, of course!

    Count me in for “and bacon”. Going to do mine up real good tomorrow lunch. 🙂

  10. Your Granny was a smart lady using up her leftovers like that. Your soup looks great – glad you enjoyed ir.

  11. My mom is a depression era lady, plus I grew up in thrifty New England… mold could always be scraped off of anything in my house growing up… nothing was wasted. Now I live conspicuous consumption Westchester County… were I was shocked watching a friend throw all her leftovers out after a dinner… wow. I’m with grammy.
    Gorgeous pics of your soup… glad you enjoyed it.

  12. Trevor your photos are always lovely! My mom kept a tupperware container in the door of the freezer. All leftovers went into and when it was full we had soup:) Who knew you could boil lettuce and use it in soup? Glad you enjoyed it. We did too.

  13. I didn’t have lettuce to add to my soup and I can say that it tasted NOTHING like that awful split pea soup from a can. My paternal grandmother was the same as yours and so was my husband’s. They could turn leftovers from the fridge and make anything from it and it was not only delicious, but fed the family and anyone who happened to stop by for a visit. It’s it wonderful to have those memories of them? Your soup looks so pretty in your cup and saucer. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it and I will have to make sure I try the lettuce in it the next time I make this. Hope you have a great weekend!

    • I’m glad you didn’t get that canned taste. The lettuce addition just really struck me as ‘fresh’ and ‘living’ so I made that connection to ‘dead’ canned soup! This trip down memory lane really has me remembering all kinds of fun things she made from leftovers and scraps.

  14. Trevor, you ceratinly took the most striking photograph of a green Pea Soup that I have ever seen! Goodness, it looks just wonderful! And you know that the story of your grand-mother´s soup cooking skills is utterly deligthful!

  15. Your grandmother sounds like an awesome woman. You turned this somewhat lackluster recipe into both a lovely soup and a lovely story.

  16. I’ve always wanted to try the lettuce in the soup as I’ve read about it other places. You have inspired me. At least now I know it’s good!

  17. My sister cooks like your grandmother…what a gift she had! I’m a huge fan of your stories, Trevor…another fun read.

  18. Lovely post. I have a few depression era babies in my family too and can definitely relate to the stories of your grandmother. My great aunt had towels so thin from use that you could practically see through them and she still insisted that they were “good enough” to use.

  19. Lettuce in the soup. Genius. I”m trying this. It must add in some kind of sweetness I imagine.

  20. Nice and comforting!

  21. I think I love your grandma. GREG

  22. Chopped almonds for a garnish? Great idea!

  23. almonds and peas? never woulda thunk!

  24. That’s a lovely cup of soup. My grandmother wasn’t famous for soup, but she could make sandwiches for 10 people from a single can of tuna. The Depression and World War Two affected the way so many people thought about food, money, and waste.

  25. Wow- I really loved the story of your Grandmother’s creativity. I was inspired by how easy this one was and was wondering why I don’t try recipes like this more often…even acknowledging I am using a carton of stock as a base. Seriously- how easy is that ?I am not a pea fan at all and was borderline shocked that I liked this soup. Which is great since I made Dorie’s and Ina’s 🙂 Apologize for the late comment- I had too much fun running around seeing the Barefoot Contessa and cooking and ended up with a miserable cold (but it was worth it).

  26. I had a wonderful relationship with my paternal grandmother who left us only last year. She was very frugal like yours … used any and everything she could. I love that you put the soup on a clear “tea cup” to photograph. It’s just lovely.