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Jun 26, 2012
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Wine With...Minted Pea and Cucumber Soup

By Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas

We were in Paris a couple of weeks ago when fresh peas were in season. Because the city was in the midst of a small heat wave, we were on the lookout for cool, refreshing food, and ordered chilled pea soup in several different restaurants. The details varied from place to place, but each version was so refreshingly delicious that we couldn’t wait to try and duplicate the experience at home. One thing we discovered is that it’s hard to go too far wrong with this recipe as long as you keep things fairly simple. And of course a million different adaptations are possible: add a dash of curry powder or a little preserved lemon, for example, or add croutons, and/or a handful of minced chives or cilantro. This is a deliciously refreshing way to start a meal, or to serve with plenty of good bread and a hearty salad as a main course for lunch or supper.

Minted Pea and Cucumber Soup

1 and ½ pound fresh green peas
½ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups peeled, chopped cucumbers
½ cup minced fresh mint
2/3 cup heavy cream

Place the peas, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, until they are just tender, about three to five minutes depending on size and age of the peas. Do not cook them beyond this point. Transfer to a blender or food processor. Add the cucumber and mint, and process to a smooth puree. Stir in 1/3 cup of the cream, taste for seasoning, and chill until ready to serve. Whip the remaining cream lightly and add a dollop to each bowl of soup.

* * *

This is more a white than a red wine dish, since the pairing has to deliver freshness above all else. We found in our tastings that a chilled dry rosé can work well also, and as nearly always seems to happen when matching wine with soup, that lively bubblies can be delicious. The key when choosing a wine to accompany this dish is to avoid anything too heavy or complex. At the same time, even though the soup is light in texture, its flavors prove fairly intense, so a very delicate, subtle wine thus runs the risk of getting lost. Choose something medium-bodied with direct flavors. When the weather turns hot and steamy, the match will help you cool down and relax.


Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Laurent Miquel Père et Fils, Pays d’Oc (France) Cinsault/ Syrah Rosé 2011

Imported by Miquel et Fils

$12

A bright, crisp rosé, pale in color, but very well-balanced and full of strawberry fruit flavor enhanced by a hint of Provencal herbs. Laurent Miquel is a producer whose value-priced wines have been impressing us recently.

La Marca, Prosecco (Italy) NV

Imported by La Marca USA

$17

Unlike many Proseccos, this one is not notably sweet, though it does convey a touch of sugar in the finish. That mostly dry profile made it work well with the soup.

Robert Oatley, Adelaide Hills (Australia) Pinot Grigio 2010

Imported by Robert Oatley Vineyards Inc.

$17

We don’t usually think of Australia when choosing a Pinot Grigio, but this wine is delicious. Tasting of primarily citrus fruit, with an echo of hay or dried grass in the bouquet, it has the advantage of being slightly fuller-bodied than most of its Italian counterparts, many of which surely would seem too delicate with the minty soup.

Miguel Torres Santa Digna, Chile Sparkling Rosé “Estelado” 2011

(Imported by Dreyfus Ashby)

$19

A very interesting wine, made with Pais (the Chilean name for the old Spanish-planted Mission grape), this pink sparkler is filled with flavor. We learned after our tasting that it recently was honored as Chile’s best bubbly in a national competition. Given the quality in the bottle, that’s a well-deserved award.

Valley of the Moon, Russian River Valley (California) Chardonnay “Unoaked” 2011

$16

Rich and ripe, this wine succeeded so well with the soup because it is unoaked. It conveys flavors akin to lemons and apples rather than toast or vanilla, so is at heart crisp and bright – just what the dish requires in a partner.