Saturday, November 7, 2009

Split Pea Soup with Dumplings

Each year, on the day after Halloween, something remarkable occurs: November arrives!

I realize that this may not seem like an especially perceptive observation, but the change I refer to involves a great deal more than the simple turn of a calendar page. The difference between October and November is the difference between the warm colors of autumn and the spare, wintry aesthetic of bare branches and grey skies. The sun gives less heat, the evenings draw in earlier - see you next year, Daylight Savings Time - and the alarm clock wakes us up to ever colder mornings. In some ways, this all sounds very bleak, but there's a certain stripped-down beauty to this time of year, as the earth prepares to take a break and get a few months' rest.

Another bonus to cooler weather is soup. On a chilly afternoon, when the air turns sharp and the sun is dipping below the trees by 5 o'clock, few things are more comforting than coming home to a warm, bright kitchen and a big pot simmering on the stove. Today's recipe is a classic winter soup featuring split peas, lots of veggies, and big, fluffy dumplings. So settle in, pour a glass of red wine, ladle out a big bowlful, and forget the darkness outside."If winter comes, can spring be far behind?"

Split Pea Soup with Dumplings
The Soup
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 cups onion, chopped
~ 1 cup celery, diced
~ 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
~ 1 cup carrot, diced
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt (more or less, depending on the saltiness of your stock)
~ Fresh black pepper
~ 1 tsp. each: thyme, parsley, marjoram, tarragon
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 2 cups split peas, picked over, rinsed and soaked at least an hour (the longer you soak them, the faster they'll cook!)
~ 1 tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 2-3 tsp. Liquid Smoke
~ 8 cups vegetable stock

~ In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the onions and celery over medium heat about 5 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, carrots and dry seasonings and cook about 5 minutes more.
~ Stir in the (drained!) split peas, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, and Liquid Smoke. Stir to coat and cook another few minutes.
~ Raise the heat to high, add the vegetable broth, cover and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer about 45 minutes.

The Dumplings
~ 1.5 cups flour
~ 1/4 cup cold vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 1/2 tsp. each: thyme, sage
~ 1/2-3/4 cup cold soy (or other non-dairy) milk

~ In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and seasonings.
~ Add the margarine and mix with your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs.
~ Add the soy milk, and mix with a fork until you have a soft dough.
~ Remove the bay leaves from the soup, then drop the dough by tablespoonfuls into the pot.
~ Cover the soup pot tightly and cook another 15-20 minutes.
~ Pour into bowls and serve hot.

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