RAGS TO RICHES

There they all were, laying in a sprawling heap, shivering, badly frostbitten. Despite their youth, struggle was written all over their faces. Who knew whether or where they had homes. Passerby scarcely paid them any attention.

Sad, this frozen bag of peas.

But wait. With care, simple alchemy, and well-chosen accessories, a luxurious soup beyond its modest origins emerges.

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SWEET PEA, MINT & PANCETTA SOUP 
(substantially adapted from a recipe by April Bloomfield)

for 4 servings:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of rustic bread, torn into pieces
2/3 cup of pancetta or ham, diced
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 large shallots, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
7 cups of water (I prefer a cleaner pea flavor
but you could also use low sodium chicken broth)
1-2 bags (20 oz. in all) of frozen sweet peas
handful of mint leaves, plus some for garnish
juice of 1/2 a lemon
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
several spoonfuls of plain yogurt

Heat the oven to 350. Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium flame and add the bread to coat. Transfer to the oven for about 10 minutes until the croutons are crisp and golden brown. In another skillet, crisp the pancetta and set aside.

In a stockpot, heat the butter and add the shallot and garlic, sauteing until softened but not browned. Add the water (and/or broth) and bring to a simmer. Add the peas and stir for 2-3 minutes. Remove pot from stove and stir in the mint leaves and lemon juice. Transfer the pea mixture to a food processor or blender in batches and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle the pea soup into a bowl (or a small pot). Swirl a spoonful of yogurt into the soup. Add a few croutons, a generous amount of pancetta or ham, and several mint leaves. Drizzle with olive oil. Crack black pepper over the soup and serve immediately.

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