Our friends were leaving for Iceland, so we chose a restaurant called Chickadee, not far from Logan Airport. Bubbling over with happiness about the arrival of summer adventures and the chance to eat together, we ordered a lot of food.
Smoked sea trout dip surprised us with big chunks of fish in a creamy sauce. Hen of the woods mushrooms were fried crisp, not grilled as they often are. The fiddlehead fern dish delivered to our table was surprising because we hadn’t actually ordered it. By the time that occurred to us, we’d eaten most of it.
The most surprising dish kicked the usual mild-mannered pea soup to the curb in favor of a brightly flavored gazpacho with rich accents of sautéed pancetta and creamy burrata. It was made with the new crop of sugar snaps but, back home, experimenting with a couple of batches, I found it could also be made with frozen green peas.
This soup is not a replication of what Chickadee served, more of a free interpretation. For example, the crisp, savory little bits in their soup turned out to be fried garlic. Tricky to carry off without risking a burned taste. So I substituted crisp pancetta bits and I’m not sorry.
Wine vinegar, hot paprika, bread as a thickener and a bit of raw garlic all came from the gazpacho lexicon. Olive oil, too, but in the spirit of summer lightness, just half the amount I’d use for a tomato gazpacho.
If you love cold soups as much as I do, I hope you’ll also check out the silky yellow-vegetable soup I make this time of year.
This refreshing, vividly colored soup is finished with a dollop of snowy burrata and savory bits of pancetta.
- 12 ounces sugar snap peas or 3 cups green peas (frozen is fine)
- 2 slices sourdough bread or other firm-textured bread crusts removed, torn in pieces
- 1 small garlic clove roughly chopped
- 1 medium cucumber peeled and cut in chunks
- ½ medium onion chopped
- 2 tablespoons almonds lightly toasted
- Leaves of 1 mint or dill sprig optional
- 1 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- 2 pinches hot paprika or 2 dashes hot sauce or to taste
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar or to taste
- 2 ounces burrata or fresh whole-milk mozzarella
- 1 to 2 ounces thick-cut pancetta
To prepare gazpacho: Tip and string the sugar snap peas.* Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Boil the sugar snaps until soft, about 4 minutes. Drain and cool under running water. Open a dozen of the pods and scrape the peas into a small bowl, for use as a garnish. Return pods to other sugar snaps.
Place bread and garlic in blender container with 1 cup water. Blend on medium high until very smooth.
Add cooked sugar snaps, cucumber, onion, almonds, mint (if using), sea salt, paprika, olive oil and vinegar to container. Blend on the highest setting for 2 minutes until very smooth, adding additional water or ice as necessary. The consistency should be pourable, but thick enough to keep garnishes from sinking.
Taste and adjust seasoning. A powerful blender should pulverize any stray sugar snap strings. If you detect any, consider straining the soup through a fine-meshed strainer or, easier yet, putting it through a food mill. Chill gazpacho thoroughly.
To prepare pancetta: Cut in tiny cubes. Saute over medium heat in a small skillet until well browned. Cool on paper towels.
To serve: Ladle soup into small bowls or, to show off the color, into martini glasses. Scatter reserved peas over servings. Cut off a chunk of burrata with a spoon to float on each one. Drizzle a little olive oil over each dollop. Add a few pancetta sprinkles to each bowl.
Note: Fresh peas also need to be cooked, but more briefly, about 2 minutes. Their pods are not tender enough to be edible as sugar snaps are. Frozen peas can be used as they are.