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French Fresh Pea Soup I

(Potage Purée St. Germain)

Thick in texture, but delicate, pure, and very fresh in taste--not to mention a smashing shade of green. This lovely springtime soup, so traditional in France, can be made year round thanks to the advent of frozen petite peas. Are young freshly shelled peas better? Of course, but not all that much, especially in this version that uses fresh lettuce. Serve hot as a first course in small cups to 4 people.

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound fresh young peas, shelled, or frozen petite peas defrosted to room temperature
  • 1¼ cups leaf or butterhead lettuce (Boston or Bibb would be excellent), finely chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Garnish: fine mince of parsley or chervil and a pitcher of cream or milk on the side

In a large saucepan, heat the butter over very low heat until melted. Stir in the peas and chopped lettuce and let cook, uncovered, over very low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in the water, bring just to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to very low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

When the peas are tender, purée in a blender, solids first. Return the soup to the saucepan, then season with sugar, pepper, and salt.

When ready to serve, heat the soup to the boiling point. Ladle into small bowls and sprinkle each with finely minced herbs. It's traditional in the French countryside to stir in a little milk or cream, so pass a pitcher of either separately for your guests to help themselves.