I just returned from a whirlwind week-long trip that included two book signings and visits with various friends and relatives along the way. It was both exhausting and energizing: I drove over a thousand miles and never stayed in one place for longer than one night. But it’s wonderful to revisit places I once knew well (and use in my books!) and to explore new ones. It’s also lovely that those nice friends and relatives take me out to eat in places I would never find on my own.
One of these was Sascha’s 527 Café, a mid-size restaurant in downtown Baltimore. It was a wet and stormy night, and there were eight of us at the table, so we tried a range of dishes, all good. I would write about the duck quesadilla I had, which involved duck confit and goat cheese, but there’s not a chance in the world that I could replicate it. But I had a delightful appetizer than is much simpler to make, so I will take a stab at imitating it (the sincerest form of flattery, right?). It’s perfect for a hot summer day.
It’s chilled sweet pea soup. The recipe is ridiculously easy, with only a few ingredients, and it has an interesting twist: orange slices. Yes, I know, I was skeptical when I read the menu, but it worked.
Obviously the central ingredient is peas, but peas have a short season, and this was mid-June. However, I did find a nice batch of sugar snap peas (which I love) at a farmer’s roadside stand in New Jersey—picked that very morning, he swore—so I decided I would use those.
CHILLED SWEET PEA SOUP
1 pound of peas (you could use frozen peas, if they’re small and sweet)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk/cream/buttermilk
Salt to taste
The cleaned segments of one small sweet orange (you can substitute canned mandarin oranges if you want)
Simmer the peas in the broth, covered, for 5-10 minutes. Do not overcook—you want them to stay tender. Transfer the mixture to a blender, food processor or food mill and puree. Add the milk. Taste for seasoning and add salt if you like. Chill. (I told you it was easy!)
When you’re ready to serve, lay a few orange slices in the bottom of each bowl and ladle the soup over them (they’ll stay on the bottom as a surprise for any guests). Garnish with a spritz of cream or crème fraiche, and pea greens if you have any (they’re long past around here).
|(Okay, I'll work on my decorating technique--|
but it still tastes good!)
And here's the reason for the grand tour--Razing the Dead, released June 3rd. Which also explains why I was standing in Pennsylvania battlefields in the pouring rain (research). Not to mention following "Marty Terwilliger" around Philadelphia. I can swear that she (the real person, not the character) really does know everyone in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, from street vendors to society matrons--because we talked to a lot of them! By the way, the "real" Marty is tickled pink to be part of the series, and is looking forward to meeting her new boyfriend (no spoilers--you'll have to read the book!).