chilled pea & cucumber soup

Over the weekend I attended the International Conference on Food Styling and Photography. It was great! You should have been there! This year's theme was "Jealous?" No it wasn't.

But it basically was. There was one session where a food photographer from San Francisco was talking about his amazing studio and the natural light that flows in through the north and south windows and how he forces everyone to sit down to a nice lunch together and then he said, "And then we have a second studio, identical to that one, on the second floor." Why buy one when you can have two?

And another person was talking about the studios at General Mills and she showed us a picture taken in their props hangar and said, "This is how we organize the shelf with all of the yellow plates." It was an entire shelf of just yellow prop plates! Which was next to the shelf with all of the green plates which was next to the shelf with all of the blue plates. You get it.

I'm not even a food photographer or stylist or anything and I wanted it all. I take pictures in my kitchen for this blog using my four white plates, which are next to my four clear glasses. "Can you take a prop plate down from my props shelf for dinner?"

And to wrap it all up the awesome and hilarious Clare Ferguson reminded everyone to enjoy themselves because it is a great industry to be in where everyone deals in dreams and lots of people wish they could be food stylists and photographers. 

So, you know, it was a very typical, very business conference and I had to get up early (ON THE WEEKEND!) and it was just talking shop and quarterly reports and break out sessions with brainstorming and synergy and rolling suitcases. Very tough. Dog-eat-dog world. Have that paper on my desk, Johnson.

Oh, and there was also a session that was about forecasting the future, sure, where we heard from the representative of an organization that tries to figure out what color nail polish you will want to buy in 2014. They say things like, "P’Zazz is not your ordinary purple; it’s energized, it’s sassy and it’s a little burlesque – a strong red-purple with a wink to Hollywood. As the last color in a rainbow spectrum, purple is an exclamation mark in color discussions." Normal conference business stuff.

(Incidentally, this article in yesterday's New York Times talks about weird paint names, including Turbulence, Lunch Bag and Dead Salmon).

Among the things I learned from her were that the consumer is not quite ready for yellow (maybe muted yellows, like Raw Honey, but certainly not bright, in-your-face yellows, like Slow Down Before You Get to the Intersection). Wasabi and citrus colors are out, but consumers are keeping them around for security. And, finally, that some people are saying blue is the new green, but she wouldn't go quite that far.

So peas - still in style! (Imagine that exclamation point is actually the color "P'Zazz."). 

Last week we had four pounds of peas in our CSA box - 2 pounds of shelling peas, 1 pound of snow peas and 1 pound of sugar snap peas. So many peas! Not enough thank-yous! I'm hilarious. Luckily we split our box with a co-worker, so we only had 2 pounds of peas. Didn't you ask me to explain exactly how many peas I had last week at length? I thought you did.

Anyway, I sauteed the snow peas with some lemon vinegar and honey. The sugar snap peas I made with mint and browned butter. And the shelling peas became this chilled cucumber pea soup. It's the perfect summer soup. If it's cold it can, and should, be described as the perfect summer ___. That's a Pollan food rule I'm pretty sure.

You can use cream or chicken broth as the liquid base for this soup. Or even milk. Basically, after the pea and cucumber puree has chilled, you will thin the soup out using the liquid of your choice, tasting along the way to ensure the flavor is where you want it. Also, I had fresh peas (the theme of this post is also "Jealous?"), but frozen will work just fine.

Oh, and I also learned that every color is off-white except white, which I thought was funny.

chilled pea & cucumber soup

ingredients
+ 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
+ 1 large clove garlic, chopped
+ 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
+ 2 cups peas (a small handful saved for garnish)
+ 2 english cucumbers, chopped (a few chunks saved for garnish)
+ 1/2 cup sour cream
+ 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
+ 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
+ 1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper, plus more to taste
+ 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
+  1-2 cups cream or chicken stock (depending on your richness preference)

recipe
In a large pan, bring the 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the shimmer over medium heat. Add the 1 chopped garlic clove and 1/2 chopped red onion and saute until just translucent - a few minutes at most (you don't want them to brown).

Add the 2 cups of peas and 2 chopped english cucumbers and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon of dill, 1 tablespoon of mint, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt. Stir and saute for 1 minute longer.

Add the pea and cucumber mixture to your blender, only filling it halfway to ensure the hot mixture doesn't erupt (P'Zazz!). Keep the hole at the top open (hold a towel over the blender) and start blending on low speed, slowly raising the speed until the mixture is smooth. You can add some of the cream or chicken broth at this point if the mixture is too thick, but you will be thinning the soup/adjusting for taste after the mixture has chilled. You may need to do this step in multiple batches.

Transfer the pureed soup to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill in your refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to serve, remove the soup from the refrigerator and taste. Add the liquid of your choice (cream or chicken broth), a 1/2 cup at a time, taste testing along the way. You can also add more salt or pepper to suit your tastes. The final taste and consistency is up to you.

Serve the soup garnished with finely chopped cucumber, a few peas and a sprinkle of pepper and/or dill.

makes 4-6 cups