Instead of the usual starchy split peas, chef Chad Newton of American Box Lunch in San Francisco blends fresh sweet peas--at their peak in spring--with spinach to make a silky, vibrantly green soup that's good hot or cold.
4 slices of sourdough bread, crusts removed and bread torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
Two 10-ounce boxes frozen peas, thawed, or 4 pounds fresh peas, shelled
10 ounces baby spinach (10 cups)
1/2 pound smoked ham in one piece, finely diced
Snipped chives, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°. On a baking sheet, toss the bread with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and toast until golden and crisp, stirring once or twice, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the canola oil. Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened, 6 minutes. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until the water is reduced to 4 cups, 20 minutes. Add the peas and simmer for 4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute.
Strain the vegetables, reserving the cooking liquid. Transfer the vegetables to a blender; add 1 cup of the cooking liquid and puree until very smooth. Return the puree to the same saucepan and stir in additional liquid until it reaches the desired consistency. Bring the soup to a simmer, then ladle into bowls. Garnish with the ham, croutons, chives and a drizzle of olive oil.
The soup can be refrigerated overnight. The croutons can be kept in an airtight container overnight.