I love a good birthday cake, especially the carrot cake we got from Big City Bread for my 30th birthday party a couple of weeks ago:
The folks at Big City were super nice, by the way, and offered to let me sample several tasty cakes before picking one. But when they sliced me off that first little sliver of this cream-cheese-and-carrot decadence, that was all the convincing I needed.
I received some very thoughtful presents, too.
The best gift, of course, was a fantastic gathering of friends and family at our house for my birthday party, complete with food and booze and some cheesy 80s music to commemorate the decade of my birth.
From my sweet, sweet husband: a clean house, two four-packs of my very favorite fancy beers (Wild Heaven Invocation and Ode to Mercy), lots of yummy birthday pizza from Transmetropolitan (including the best combo ever, bacon + artichoke hearts), and a classy date at Five and Ten the night after my birthday.
Money from the folks (always appreciated), a lovely bottle of Malbec from Dave and Kim, hand-drawn pictures and a birthday card from my niece Lilly, and a gift certificate to Avid Bookshop (yay!) from her uncle Jason.
From Eric and Jinny, a bottle of chamomile grappa (perfect for sipping after a swanky date-night dinner), and from my good friend Amy, a very pretty tea set with a mint-green teapot, two mugs, and packages of green tea and cookies.
Scratch-off lottery tickets (not winners–oh well!) and cute sticky notes from some school pals, plus a pretty handmade necklace from my fourth grade Froggy Friend!
I’ve got a pretty dang sweet crew of friends and family, if I do say so myself! What a perfect birthday.
So imagine my surprise when I returned to school the following Monday to find one more present waiting for me on my desk, a pink gift bag from my friend Leigh, with a note that read: “I’ve picked some field peas from my garden (purple-hull/crowder). If anyone knows what to do with these, it’s you! “
My birthday had already been wonderful, which made these pretty peas the proverbial icing on the cake:
I spent last Saturday morning sipping coffee, baking muffins, and shelling those pretty little peas:
Then it was time to come up with a recipe. I winged it, as usual, having never made soup with fresh field peas before, and let me tell you guys–the results were nothing short of spectacular.
What’s in it:
- 1/2 cup diced bacon
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium carrots, sliced (about 1 cup)
- 6-8 big cabbage leaves, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 cup freshly shelled field peas
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked, if you have it)
- zest of 1 lemon
- 3-4 cups stock or broth (I used pork)
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 4 bay leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the bacon in a big saucepan over medium heat and cook until it starts to crisp and the fat has rendered out.
- Add the garlic, onion, and carrots, and saute for about 5 minutes or until they start to get tender.
- Stir in the cabbage, field peas, marjoram, paprika, and lemon zest. Mix until everything’s coated with the bacon fat and seasonings. (At this point, things are going to smell really, really good.)
- Pour in the stock or broth, add the vinegar and bay leaves, and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
- Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until until the peas are cooked through and the veggies are falling-apart tender.
This hearty soup makes a meal for 2 or 3 with sourdough toast, buttermilk biscuits, or hunks of warm homemade cornbread.
Make the portions a little smaller and you’ll have the perfect starter for a Southern-style feast of summer veggies and crispy fried chicken.
And when you slurp up your first spoonful of this savory soup, you’ll swear it must be your birthday (even if it’s not).