When we returned from France, we were so excited to have a garden again.... small as it is! In our apartment I had herbs growing in pots on our window ledges, but when you live on the third floor without a terrace there is a limit. I was asked by our gardienne to remove one especially large pot of tomatoes that I had wired to our garde-corps as she was afraid it might fall on someone's head. However, with a great farmers market around the corner twice a week, there was no shortage of really fresh produce. So upon returning one of our first projects was to reclaim the curb in front of our house between the sidewalk and street and turn it into a garden. We tore out the bricks, filled in the soil, and planted. In three of the beds we have succulents and california natives (low water and low maintenance) and in the fourth bed we planted vegetables. It is amazing how much food you can grow in a 4' x 4' area! Now in addition to the oranges, limes, guavas and herbs that we have been growing inside our fence for years, we have been enjoying homegrown radishes, salad greens, carrots, onions, tomatoes, chives, and now PEAS from our sidewalk garden. I am amazed at how every year more and more of our neighbors are using their tiny yards and patios to grow edibles. The trend towards eating locally grown seasonal produce seams to be catching on everywhere, probably because everything tastes sooo good when it is fresh from the garden!
We have been snacking on pea pods for weeks but haven't been able to keep up with production! Yesterday, I decided to harvest enough to cook up a batch of my favorite soup. It was a perfect choice as many of the ingredients are abundant (i.e. overgrown) in our garden this time of year.
This is a recipe I first made in France with fresh peas we picked with our friend Lilibet at a farm near Versailles. I adapted from several recipes in an attempt to re-create a soup that we enjoyed at Les Papilles.
Cold Pea Soup with Mint and Prosciutto
splash of olive oil
4 cups fresh peas
handful of mint leaves
chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
cream or half and half
creme fraiche for garnish
prosciutto for garnish
In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the chopped scallions and cook a few minutes until tender. Add the chopped mint and shelled peas and cook for a few more minutes, stirring. The mint will be quite fragrant. Add enough stock to cover the peas (maybe 5 to 6 cups) and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and salt and pepper to taste. Once soup is room temperature, reserve a few peas for garnish and puree the rest in a blender, food processor, or food mill. Stir in the cream or half and half. You may want to vary the amount of cream to reach your desired consistency and taste. Refrigerate for an hour or two until chilled. Before serving, slice the prosciutto into strips and add to a hot saute pan cooking until crispy. Transfer to a plate or bowl to cool. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with creme fraiche, reserved peas, and crispy prosciutto. This is a great first course or light meal, and an excellent way to use up the peas in your early spring garden!
When I saw these photos of designer Rupert Landendinger's Copenhagen apartment it made me home sick for my apartment in Paris. I love the detail of the doors and moldings as well as the high ceilings and abundance of natural light. The architecture and layout remind me so much of 10 Rue Castiglione.
Maggie Israel recently returned to southern California after living in Paris, France for 2 years where she studied French Patisserie at the Cordon Bleu and roamed the Paris boutiques and flea markets. Her latest project is URBANvernacular, a full service interior design firm, combining her 10 years of residential and commercial design experience with her passion for found objects and textiles.