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Last weekend in Sonoma I had a delicious example of Real Food, steaming hot homemade Split Pea Soup from the stove of our good friend Steve Arelt. Making enough for a hearty first sitting with plenty left over to freeze for another time, Steve cooked the peas just long enough to be slightly soft while maintaining shape and texture, then added slices of spicy Portuguese or Italian sausage.

What makes old fashioned split pea soup a Real Food?

First, it is more than old fashioned. Those tiny split yellow or green peas that we buy today are a legume from the seedpod of the Pisum Satvium that dates back to 1800 BC. Grown primarily as a winter crop and then dried in the sun they were stored and used throughout the year. Generations of creative cooks have created soups or stews made from flavorful stocks of leftover roots, preserved (smoked) meat those nutritious dried peas.

Yesterday I followed Steve’s recipe for stock. After straining it today I will cut off some of the ham meat, added fresh carrots, ground fennel and then boil the peas just long enough…

Tomorrow I will make a sauce for pasta. Next week maybe Ham Hock Ravioli or a Bánh Mi sandwich. If the meat isn’t quite gone by then I will use it in Potato Soup.

Real Food. Thank you, Steve.

Steve’s Split Pea Soup
Serves 8


4 quarts chicken stock
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
3 carrots cut into thirds
1 smoked ham hock, split to fit into the stockpot
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
¾ pound green split peas, rinsed with any rocks removed
1/2# spicy sausage, Portuguese or Italian style*
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Put 3 quarts stock, onion, carrots and ham hock in stockpot. Bring stock to a boil and reduce heat to steady simmer. Cook for at least 4 hours until meat is falling off the hock.
  2. Remove from heat and cool. Transfer hock to a serving dish and stock with vegetables to a bowl. Remove carrots and discard. Refrigerate stock and hock separately long enough for fat to solidify, four hours or over night.
  3. With a slotted spoon remove fat from the surface of the stock. Cut ham away from the hock and transfer to a sealable container.
  4. Put stock into large pot, add remaining quart of chicken stock, sliced carrots and drained peas. Bring stock to a boil; turn heat down to medium and cook until carrots and peas are soft but not mushy. Add sausage and cook until heated through. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.

In the last ten minutes of cooking I added minced Italian parsley. OK but unnecessary.

*If you don’t add spicy sausage, add ¼ tsp. Tabasco Smoked Chipotle. Pepper Sauce.

Until January I will be “off Blog.” Enjoy the season, the music and all the fabulous food. Remember the tastes and share them with all of us during the cold winter months. Happy Holidays.


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