Monday, November 15, 2010

Bacon Eating Vegetarian (split pea soup)


"I would be a vegetarian except I love bacon" That is the carnivores best joke when introduced to a vegetarian. I've heard it almost as many times as, "I hated it" or "it was terrible" when clearing a licked clean plate from a customer at the restaurant. The irony of the statement is the joke. I hope I don't sound bitter.

Once again, I digress...

I have been conflicted. For 11 years I was a vegetarian. During those 11 years I experimented with a vegan diet, ate fish when fresh and local after moving back to Block Island, added eggs then took them out then added them again, and repeat (my egg eating was a big personal dilemma for many years). Once I decided to eat meat, add it back in for good (for the time being), no longer call myself a vegetarian (pescetarian or what have you), and with no excuse or apology, I have felt clear in that decision. My confliction has come with writing this blog and cooking with meat.

Despite my new-ish understanding that meat in a diet can be a healthy addition (for some people and the right types of meat), it is still difficult for me to see a recipe with the addition of, lets say bacon for example, as a good healthy choice for people. Even though I see it as a good healthy choice for me and my family. I like introducing people to foods that are prepared unlike the way you can find them on any menu or in most recipes. Creativity with food. So making a split pea soup with bacon, and sharing that here has been a difficult choice for me. Weird right?

What it has come down to for me is getting people in the kitchen. Bacon or no bacon, there is nothing like a homemade soup to warm the tummy, soul, and home. Personally, having bacon in my soup was a little weird. It seems like a cheap way (and I don't mean inexpensive) to add flavor. But, Chop loved it--and he ate it with a vigor I don't always see when feeding him my vegetarian version. There is something to be said about that kind of enthusiasm with your customers (wrong word, but what would you call the receiver of your home cooked goodness? taster? taste-ee?).

Handling meat is a whole other thing for me too. I have never cooked with it, being a vegetarian for my whole adult life. It is kind of gross. BUT, if you are going to eat meat that has made the lowest carbon footprint and has been humanely raised and killed (grass fed, local), you are going to have to cook it yourself. Some vegetarians believe we should have to kill the animal ourselves if we are going to be eating it, the least I can do is handle it.

So, with this post behind me-- we can move on. Some meals will have meat, most won't (hard to break old habits and why would I want to). I will put this confliction to rest with a split pea soup recipe Chopper would die for.

Split Pea Soup with Bacon and Rosemary (Bon Appetit)

4 bacon slices, chopped (yeah, not easy to do--I cooked it first and then broke it up in the pan)
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium leek, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
7-8 cups of low sodium stock (the recipe called for chicken, I used vegetable--old habits die hard)
1 1/4 cups of green split peas, rinsed
2 bay leaves (I used a few pieces of kombu (sea vegetable)instead--increases the mineral content of soups, broths, grains, etc)
1 tsp dried rosemary, chopped (1/2 tsp fresh)

Saute bacon in large pot over med-high heat till crisp and brown.
Add onion, leek, carrot, and garlic and saute until veg soften
Add broth, peas, kombu, and rosemary and bring soup to boil.
Reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer till peas are soft--this took a few hours to get it nice and mushy--you could crock pot it.

It is always important to rinse your grains and dry beans. They are stored in large bins and can get pretty dusty as well as whatever else may lurk in the giant bins/bags of grain. When rinsing these peas I notice they got sticky, like whatever sticky protein is in the pea was broken down a little with the addition of water. I don't know if that is exactly what was happening (have not looked into it further) but interesting, if it is.

A nice medley of color pre-broth

Split pea soup with bacon