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At the best of times, it’s easy to take for granted the food that sustains us. But at the worst of times, you need something special to pick you up and settle you down. This is a tale of two such dishes.

I was planning to write something on spring greens or maybe wild salmon this week. Then one of our ancient sycamores took a dive into the yard across the street, my cable TV and internet both went out, and my weekly recipe article veered onto a completely different path.

7.11 silverthorn celeryWith stress levels elevating and nothing to do but wait for the city to send a crew and Comcast to send a tech, I cooked. The leftover ham bone from Easter was transformed into a pot of pea soup for Sunday family dinner. Time was filled, wine was opened, and hungry people were fed.

On Monday, still no tree crew and still no internet or cable. I finished the novel I had been reading, and with more time on my hands, started another book – My Kitchen Year, by Ruth Reichl. Ruth is the former editor-in-chief at Gourmet magazine. Her book begins with the magazine going out of business and Ruth finding herself out of a job.

With stress levels elevating, Ruth retreated to her country house, winter set in, snow storms ensued, the power went out, she cooked. Sound familiar? Chicken stock was pulled from the freezer, and with a fresh lemon was transformed into a comforting bowl of lemon chicken soup. Time was filled, etc.

It turns out that Ruth and I are kindred spirits – kitchen zen masters. We’re out to set the world aright with food! Here is Ruth’s recipe for Avgolemono followed by mine for Split Pea Soup. With a hunk of good fresh bread, a tossed green salad, and a nice bottle of wine, you too can find inner peace!

Ruth’s Avgolemono
from My Kitchen Year, by Ruth Reichl

schacht eggsIngredients:

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup rice
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the rice, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, grate the rind from the lemon into a bowl. Squeeze the naked lemon and add the juice to the rind.
  3. Separate the eggs, dropping the yolks into the lemon juice. (Save the whites for another use.) Add a pinch of salt and beat the yolks into the lemon juice and rind.
  4. When the rice is tender, whisk about half a cup of the hot stock into the yolks, then slowly pour the yolks into the soup, stirring constantly. Cook gently for about 5 minutes or until the soup is slightly thickened. Pour into bowls and eat slowly.

Jinny’s Split Pea Soup

11.8 earthly carrotsIngredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb. split green peas, washed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 rib of celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 cup cooked ham, diced
  • 1 ham bone + water for stock
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • ¼ cup dry sherry

Directions:

  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil, add the ham bone and reduce to simmer.
  2. Meanwhile place another large pot on medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil. Sauté onions, celery, carrots, and ham until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add 2 quarts of the ham bone stock and the washed split peas. Cook on medium low heat for 1 1/2 hours. More stock may be added as needed. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.
  4. Add rosemary and sherry and cook ½ hour more. Serve with a dollop of sour cream to garnish.