Make-it-Parve Spring Pea Soup

We consider ourselves very lucky to have been given the opportunity to review the new cookbook, The New Jewish Table, by Todd and Ellen Kassoff Gray of Washington, DC's Equinox Restaurant, While the internet provides us with thousands of recipes just by using a few keystrokes, it cannot replace the touch and the feel of a cookbook especially one with gorgeous pictures of the featured dishes.

Every cookbook tells a story and Todd and Ellen tell theirs in chatty, interview-style at the beginning of each recipe. Their stories and memories are peppered throughout the cookbook. The table of contents and recipes in the cookbook are organized by season and then by meal (e.g. brunch, starters, lunch, dinner, sides, desserts). Each recipe is also labeled in one of three categories: meat, diary, mixed and parve.  The ingredients are separately delineated and listed in the order they are used in the cooking instructions which are clear and easy to follow.

There are two sections at the end of the book. The first is a Holiday Menu section with menus for the four most important Jewish holidays followed by a Chef’s Appendix with recipes for spice blends, sauces and condiments as well as techniques used elsewhere in the cookbook. Many of the recipes have an endnote explaining how to make the dish parve so that it can be served with other dishes in the book.  And when it comes to cookbooks, the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is most fitting.  A majority of the recipes in this cookbook also include a beautiful full-color photograph of the completed dish.

When we saw lovely, fresh petit pois in the market, we knew we would have to try the Gray’s fresh pea soup from the Spring section of their cookbook to try! The resulting soup was delicious. With the fresh green smell of spring come from the pot, it was impossible to resist skimming a small cup before allowing the mixture to chill as recommended in the recipe. Even warm, the smooth, creamy, bright green soup looked and tasted like the essence of spring. This will definitely be a repeat performance.

Early Spring Pea Soup
(recipe used with permission of St. Martin’s Press)

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound fresh or thawed frozen shelled English peas
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/16 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/2  teaspoon sugar (if needed)

For Garnish: 
  • 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen shelled peas
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream (optional)
  • 4 mint leaves, very finely and neatly diced

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onions and garlic. Sauté until the onions are shining and garlic is aromatic; about 3 minutes. Add the peas, vegetable stock, salt, and pepper. If your peas are sweet you shouldn't need the sugar, but sugar will boost the flavor, so if you need it, stir it in now. Bring the soup to simmering, lower the heat to low and let the soup simmer until the peas are tender; about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer the soup to the container of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process to a smooth puree. Pour the soup through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled and you are ready to serve it; at least 60 minutes (you can alternatively place the bowl over another bowl filled with ice). Taste the soup and add more salt or pepper to taste.

Blanch the peas for the garnish. If using fresh peas, bring a medium pot of water to boiling over high heat, add the peas, and cook until crisp-tender; 2 to 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.

To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls and top each with some blanched peas, 1 tablespoon of creme fraiche, and a sprinkling of mint.

To Make it Parve: Omit the sour cream or creme fraiche garnish to make the dish dairy-free.

This cookbook would be a wonderful addition to any cook’s bookshelf. The recipes which are versatile and diverse will appeal to any home cook not just those of the Jewish faith. While we are not Jewish, we found the book wonderfully informative and laid out in such a way as to make it easy to understand and prepare a meal for Jewish friends and family members. This 352-page hardcover cookbook is available from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.