Do your split peas measure up?
We have standards, after all. By we, I mean the US Department of Agriculture, which has twenty-five pages (really!) of standards governing the appearance (size, color, and robustness) of whole dry peas, split peas, and lentils.
Gives the term "taste police" a whole new meaning, doesn't it?
Split peas are a variety of field pea grown specifically for drying; they're harvested at a later point of maturity than ordinary garden peas, stripped of their husks, and split along a natural seam. Most of what we see in the markets in the US and Europe are green splits (from varieties that have green-colored cotyledons) and yellow splits (from varieties that have ... you guessed it ... yellow cotyledons).
Dry split peas contain more starch than fresh peas. Generally, the yellow splits are a bit milder in flavor, and they are very slightly higher in calories, protein, and carbs.
One advantage of split peas over whole is that the splits don't require a presoak before cooking. Another plus is that they can be stored for months at room temperature, in an airtight container. Be sure to pick through before using, and remove any small stones.
National Split Pea Soup Week isn't until the second week in November (I didn't even know there's a whole week for celebrating split pea soups!), but I'm planning to try some of these wonderful goes-with-split-peas flavor combinations: split pea-spinach, beef and barley, sweet potatoes and kale, sausage and potato, spicy ginger, and butternut squash with star anise.
Split pea, sausage and preserved lemon soup
All this month, one of my favorite blogs, A Veggie Venture, celebrates soup, and cooks everywhere are joining in. This rustic soup, a heartier variation of my vegetarian meat-free split pea, freezes well and is perfect with some crusty bread for lunch on a cold winter day. Preserved lemons are easy to make at home, or buy them at a Middle Eastern market. Serves 6.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large leek, trimmed, washed, and diced
1 cup green or yellow splits
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (homemade or storebought)
2 links turkey kielbasa*, cut into medium dice
2 Tbsp preserved lemon, rind only, rinsed and finely chopped
Lots of black pepper
Kosher salt, to taste
Put oil and leek into a stockpot, and saute until leek is translucent. Add splits and stock. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for at least one hour, until the beans "dissolve." Add preserved lemon and kielbasa, and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Season with pepper and salt, if needed.
*For a vegetarian soup, replace kielbasa with 1-2 tsp smoky barbecue sauce, to taste.
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