My old favorite (pre-vegetarian days) recipe for split pea soup was this one from Gourmet. Obviously, since it calls for ham hocks, it wouldn’t work for me nowadays, so when I had a craving for split pea soup the other day, I had to improvise a little. I wanted to get a similar smoky flavor to what you get by using ham hocks, so I used smoked paprika instead.* That, along with the herbs and veggie broth, made it a richly flavorful soup.
* The smoky flavor of bacon and other pork products is one of the few things I miss about eating meat, hence my intense love of smoked paprika!
The pumpernickel croutons, which are probably the best part of that old favorite recipe, made it complete. They pair perfectly with the soup, giving it just the right crunchiness, bite, and saltiness.
Split Pea Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons
Based on a blend of this recipe from Gourmet, January 2004, and one from Soup Yourself: 50 Simple Yet Sublime Soup Recipes from the Eastside Cafe
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 small carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 cups split peas, rinsed well
8 cups vegetable stock or water**
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp fresh (or 1/4 tsp dried) oregano, minced
1/4 tsp marjoram
1 tsp minced parsley
1/2 tsp fresh (or 1/4 tsp dried) thyme leaves
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp kosher salt, divided
several slices of pumpernickel rye, cubed
Heat 2 Tbs of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat, and add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook until well softened, about 15 minutes. Add the split peas, stock or water, spices, and 1 tsp of the salt. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to low. Simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until split peas are tender.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°. Toss the pumpernickel with the remaining 1 Tbs olive oil and 1 tsp salt. Spread in one layer in a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack.
Sprinkle a few croutons on top of each serving of soup, and enjoy!
** I had less veggie stock than I thought, so I used 5 cups of stock and 3 cups of water, which worked fine.