I've been obsessed with peas lately...its spring for goodness sakes! And caesar salads, I have no explanation for that though.
I still had half of a cookie sheet of chilled polenta leftover from Jaimie's wedding that I was trying to use up, and recently realized I needed to harvest from my mint plant, so that is the primary inspiration of this dinner combination: necessity (and craving!).
The soup is vegan without the suggested yogurt or sour cream garnish and the caesar is not vegan due to the dressing I picked--- it has eggs in it. It is however vegetarian because I didn't use anchovies for the dressing like most chefs do in caesar!
For the soup:
1 yellow onion, diced
5 stalks of celery, diced
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups of frozen or fresh green peas
2 cups of vegetable broth (don't forget you can make your own! see recipe!)
1/3 cup of mint, rinsed and lightly chopped
Plain yogurt or sour cream for a garnish
For the Caesar:
1 head of kale, about 3 cups rinsed and chopped finely (and I keep the stems, not everyone does...)
2 cups of chilled, prepared polenta (**) chopped into cubes or longish cubes
1 egg entire, and 1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup of loosely packed basil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/3 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese
Chop onions and celery and saute in a soup pan with a thin coat of olive oil over medium heat until the two vegetables soften.
Add garlic and broth.
Simmer over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.
Blanche peas (add to boiling water, and then after 3 minutes submerge in cold water to save the color and texture) and afterwards drain peas and add to soup. Continue to simmer gently over **low heat-- making sure not to cook it so hard that you ruin the nice bright green color of the peas!
Using leftover, chilled and shaped polenta, (**Prepare polenta as normal in a pan on the stove about 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil, 6 cups of water and 1 cups of polenta stirring constantly and cooking for about 30 minutes over medium heat, spread cooked polenta onto cookie sheets, you can bake it and then chill it or just chill it. Chill it long enough (about 2 hours) that it holds it shape. Cut into pieces.) fry in a 1/4" deep layer of olive oil over medium heat until all sides are golden brown. This takes attention and filling constantly so as not to overcook any one side.
Meanwhile, harvest your mint...errr prep your mint if you don't have a plant to harvest from in your kitchen garden (though I recommend it!)
Those polenta coutons take about 15-20 minutes to get to the right level of crispiness/goldenness (unless you have a deep fryer, I sure don't!) so keep watching them as your finish your soup with the mint...
Using a hand blender or regular blender, mix mint and soup together, tasting to see if you might like to add salt. I prefer my soup about 85% smooth and 15% rustically chunky, so I quit blending it when it got to that consistency. Cover and remove from heat-- heating it more at this point will cook out the mint flavor.
In a small food processor, add all ingredients for caesar dressing (egg, egg yolk, dijon, garlic, basil, lemon juice/vinegar) except** the oil. Blend all ingredients and then slowly blend in the oil, drizzling just a little bit at a time, which will emulsify the egg and acid, creating a creamy dressing.
Coat your finely chopped kale with the dressing and parmesan cheese.
At this point (finally!) your polenta croutons should be complete-- let them drain on a paper towel to remove excess oil.
Add more cheese, salt and pepper so that the salad tastes as you like.
I garnished the minted pea soup with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of baby mint.