sweet onion split pea soup with basil, parmesan panko fried flounder and a mustard lemon vinaigrette (variation)

I am getting a bit of cabin fever. I have never really had it before and prided myself in not being someone who goes stir-crazy in one place for an extended period of time. That being said, I’m going a little mad stuck in my condo day after day, night after night because of these storms. While they’re fun to listen to; the loud booms overhead and the people yelling and scurrying outside. The rain, relaxing and methodical. The bright electric anger in the sky I can watch from my living room… All that though, in the end, is an unwelcome reminder of my gilded cage.

It’s during times like these when I’m happy for my ability to stay occupied. My job, cleaning and the real crime documentaries can only take one so far – and those hours are regulated. It’s what you do the rest of the time that can save you from an evening of youtube rabbit hole desperation.

I like to go through all my old recipes and try to recreate things; make them differently with what I happen to have on hand. Yesterday was no exception, with three storms taking up the day, and I decided my soup and salad combo would go perfectly with the Rosé we were trying. I’ve made a panko crusted flounder before, and I’ve made a split pea soup before, but I decided to use a variation on the ingredients. Perhaps you’ll find these versions better.

This meal takes under twenty minutes to make, which doesn’t help my lofty goal of distraction but, it is tasty! And the two courses promote a thinking of “just relax… it’s a lazy, rainy day”.

You will find information on the soup maker I use below:

https://liveacuratedlife.com/2019/06/25/potato-beef-and-bacon-soup-with-parmesan-basil-toast-and-caesar-soft-boiled-egg-salad/

You will need:

  • Split peas
  • Sweet onion (one)
  • Cashews (one bag, I used the salt and pepper cashews)
  • Beef broth (your favorite brand)
  • Artichoke hearts (canned, quartered or whole)
  • Flounder fillets (frozen or fresh)
  • Panko
  • Grated parmesan (or grate yourself)
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Eggs (two)
  • Basil (dried)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lettuce (I like to use softer precut and washed lettuce for this; butter lettuce or sweet lettuce)
  • Olive oil (extra virgin)
  • Mustard (yellow)
  • Lemon juice (juice your own or get it bottled)
  • Sesame seed oil

Soup

I use my Philips soup maker and just throw it all in however, if you don’t have one just use your stock pot and make the soup as you normally would. Put in all your stock, most of the bag of cashews (two handfuls), several artichoke hearts (use kitchen shears or a knife to make smaller so they’re easier to blend later if using a blender or immersion blender), and a portion of the split peas. You will need to decide how much of everything you prefer. For example, depending on how big your pot is, you’ll decide how many peas to throw in. They do split when cooked and thicken soups considerably. Try to keep an eye on everything and add more fluid if needed (more stock or water). Cashews will do the same however, they add a creaminess to this soup that makes it more like a porridge. You will cook the soup in a stock pot on a rolling boil for 30 minutes, checking frequently, the amount of fluid in the pot adding more as needed.

Once you get your consistency down, you’ll know moving forward how you like it, and will be able to eye-ball everything. Salt and pepper afterwards.

Once you see everything is softened, go ahead and blend as you prefer.

Fish

We get our fish frozen from Target. The bags of flounder are very reasonably priced and individually packed. I rip open two, and they defrost very quickly. Flounder is a buttery fish that is very low in calories (around 80) and have about 14 grams of protein. They can be turned into fish tacos, fish stew and soon to come, with brunch (I will post in the future) as some examples. In this case, I breaded them and placed over soft lettuce with my mustard lemon viniagrette.

Make a dredging station using three large bowls or plates. Starting on the left with your whole wheat flour, then your two eggs and finishing with the panko. Over the panko, put two tablespoons of grated parmesan and dried basil, each. Salt and pepper the flour and the panko.

Combine all the ingredients in the panko together and, after adding a splash of water to the eggs, whisk them smooth.

First, with a designated “dry hand” (I use my right), place the fish into the flour. Then, take that same hand and flip it over. Using your fingers to lift the flour, make sure the fish is coated completely. Take your hand and lift the fish and place it into your eggs. Taking your other hand, now your “wet hand”, lift the fish and flip over making sure both sides have egg. Take your wet hand and lift the fish placing it into the panko mixture, taking your dry hand again now, and make sure both sides are coated. Do all the fish you plan to eat, leaving each one resting on a plate until done.

In a sauté pan, heat just enough oil to coat the bottom; you’re not deep frying. Once it’s scalding you will see ripples in the oil when you move the pan otherwise, you can throw just a bit of water drops or some panko in to see if it starts to sizzle and pop. Place each filet carefully into the olive oil on medium high, and set the timer for five mins.

Do not move the fish.

You may decide that you only need 4 minutes each side. This will be up to you. I think five minutes is perfect. When the five mins is up, lift the fish and flip over, setting the timer again. The color should be a gorgeous amber.

In the meantime, check on your soup. If you used the soup maker, it will alert you it’s done after 18 minutes and stay (very) hot for up to 40. You will see how thick the soup became.

However you decided to cook your soup, leave it to stay warm and while the fish finishes, go ahead and make the dressing.

In any container you like, put at least one tablespoon of yellow mustard, one tablespoon of lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and then in one hand hold a whisk or fork, and in the other the oil. Start to pour the oil in while whisking the mixture so it emulsifies. Add as much oil as you like, usually doubling the liquid already in the container (meaning: if you use a measuring cup to combine everything, eyeball the height of the dressing without the oil, and add enough oil so that the line doubles in size).

Lastly, add some splashes of sesame seed oil.

Stir everything together again before pouring over the leaves right before serving. This is a thicker vinaigrette because of the mustard so, try not to dress too early as the lettuce will wilt quickly under the weight.

Have either one you like first. Just top the soup with some grated parmesan and either parsley (as seen here) or leave with just the cheese. The fish will come out of the pan perfectly sturdy to place over the leaves that you’ve dressed.

The tangy mustard goes perfectly with the lemon juice. The small, bite sized pieces of soft lettuce compliment the crunchy cheesy panko. The is a last final hit of sesame flavor you’ll get from the dressing that works very well with the fish. The soup is creamy and satisfying, needing only a bit more water when reheating as a leftover. The artichoke hearts aren’t noticeable, aside from the sheen they provide in the soup. The nutty flavors of the cashews pair perfectly with the herbaceous sweet onion and pleasing peas. The wine we chose is shown below, and the company also makes a Sauvignon Blanc that would also work well with this meal.

I know eventually this rain will stop, and it’ll usher us into milder days of less humidity and inevitably more people. I’ll venture out getting inspiration from restaurants and farmer’s markets. Forever discovering new ingredients for the humble split pea soup and different herbs to add to the fish. A welcome sensory overload from the months spent indoors, no doubt.

Below you will find the table setting for this meal. Bone china from Worchester. Silverware is Napoleon Bee. Napkins, chargers and table runner are from Pier 1. Crystal is Waterford. Wine glasses are from Crate and Barrel. Soup maker is Phillips. Copper sauté pan is from Cuisinart.

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