Even though we’re in the midst of a very hot spell, this morning’s last big-batch cooking effort of this trip to the cottage was a pot of soup, laden with the flavours of summer: cauliflower, fresh tomatoes, grilled corn, cilantro and cumin. I also added yellow split peas, for protein, texture and colour, but not enough for the soup to take on a chowdery consistency.
I was really happy with how this soup turned out. In my initial tastings this morning, the broth already had a lot of flavour, and the predominant colours of yellow, red and white were visually pleasing. I quite liked the textural variation as well, especially the ‘pop’ of the corn kernels. We had it for lunch and dinner today, and already the flavours had developed more fully. This is one of those soups that just get better with time.
Soup in such hot weather, you might be asking? While it’s refreshing to eat cold salads and the like, sometimes you just need a hot meal, even at the height of summer’s heat. One of the virtues of soup is that it heats up very quickly, having minimum effect on the temperature in the cottage (no air conditioning here – we rely on fans and whatever breezes Mother Nature directs our way to keep it comfortable). Also, heating up soup requires next to no mental effort, which is a good thing when you’re wondering what to have for your next meal, whether you’re on the beach or coming through the door from work.
Last night I soaked two cups of yellow split peas in a large bowl of water. By this morning, they had swelled up to about twice their original volume, and were nicely softened. That’s important for cutting down on cooking time in this hot weather. I drained and rinsed them this morning, prior to adding to the soup pot.
I was lucky to have the Culinary Enthusiast’s assistance in grilling the cobs of corn that I had lightly oiled. Not only did this free me up for the rest of the prep work, but it was hot as Hades out and it made me wilt just to think of standing at the barbeque. It’s good to have help!
I made up this recipe as I went, because that’s how a lot of soup making goes. Start with an ingredient and/or theme, and develop it as you go. In this case, the ingredient inspiration was a small head of cauliflower that caught my eye when we were shopping and, a few aisles later, a bag of sunshiny yellow split peas. The theme I had in mind was summer, which led me to think of adding corn. From there it was a short step to “southwest,” so cumin, oregano and cilantro were obvious choices for building the flavour profile.
It’s fun and satisfying to start with an idea and carry it through into the development of a dish. My recipe for this soup is below, so you can either follow it, or use it as a jumping off point for your own, original soup. Either way, enjoy!
Summer Soup With Cauliflower, Split Peas and Corn
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1 large onion, chopped
– 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
– 6 to 8 tomatoes, chopped
– 1 small head cauliflower, roughly chopped
– approximately 4 cups pre-soaked yellow split peas (see above)
– 8 cups vegetable broth
– 1 tbsp ground cumin
– 1 tbsp dried oregano
– small bunch cilantro, stems finely chopped, leaves coarsely chopped
– kernels from 2 cobs of corn that have been lightly grilled
– 1 tsp salt
– freshly ground black pepper, to your taste (the measurement I use is LOTS)
Cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil in a large pot over low heat. Once they are soft and translucent, turn up the heat until they begin to colour, to build flavour. Add the chopped cauliflower and stir well and let cook some more. Add the tomatoes, then the split peas and vegetable broth. Stir in the cumin, oregano, cilantro and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer. Cook until the split peas have a pleasing consistency, and add the grilled corn kernels shortly before the soup is done.
An additional benefit of eating light and healthy food like this is that I feel quite justified in heading out soon for an ice cream cone. After all, life is all about balance, right?