Irish Lettuce, Pea, and Potato Soup

          I never really think about lettuce having flavor.  Texture, maybe, but not taste in its own right.  It seems more like a neutral backdrop, a matrix upon which other, more vibrant flavors can be added.  This assumption of mine would be wrong, it turns out.

          When I first saw this recipe by Coleman Andrews, I thought of spring.  Spring, with its gentle and verdant freshness.  Spring, with its first vegetables of the year growing forth from an earth that had for too long been frozen.  Spring, with the sweetest and tenderest new peas.  This soup, this spring soup, I had to make it.  So I did.  And found, to my surprise, that the lettuce was the loveliest aspect about it.  The potatoes and peas, the creamy richness, set the lettuce off beautifully.  But it was the wily and unexpected lettuce that made this soup such a treat.

          I’ve got to say, as I’ve said before, that this kind of cooking makes me very happy.  A few humble ingredients, inexpensive and ubiquitous, combine to create something that is wonderfully luscious.  To me, this is real cooking for real people.  I don’t need exotic ingredients.  I simply need this.

Irish Lettuce, Pea, and Potato Soup

 2 T butter  (or high-quality butter substitute)

1 onion, minced

1 large head of Romaine lettuce, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise

2 T flour

2 cups milk  (or non-dairy milk)

3 medium potatoes, diced into 1/2″ cubes

1 1/2 cups fresh peas  (or thawed frozen peas)

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

          Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan.  Saute the onion until very soft.  Add the lettuce and saute, turning regularly, until the leaves begin to brown slightly, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour over top, and stir into the veggies.

          In a slow stream, add the milk while stirring.  Add the potatoes, and the peas (if you are using fresh), along with the broth.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until the potatoes are just cooked through, about 15 minutes.  If using thawed frozen peas, add them now, and simmer until heated through, another minute or two.  Serve either hot or warm.

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