This soup goes together fast, especially if you peel, seed, and cube the winter squash the night before. For even faster prep, substitute about 2 cups of frozen squash or cooked squash leftover from a previous meal. MAKES 4 TO 6 SERVINGS
• 6 to 7 cups chicken stock or broth (Use 6 cups for a thicker soup.)
• 1 pound dried split peas, rinsed and drained (green or combination of green and yellow)
• 1 pound ham or pork hock(s)
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 pound peeled, seeded, and cubed winter squash
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 cup diced carrots
• 1/2 cup diced celery
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon thyme or lemon thyme
• 1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
• Salt, to taste
1. Bring broth to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add peas, ham hocks and bay leaf; reduce heat and simmer for 1 to 2 hours or until meat easily pulls from hocks. Remove bay leaf and ham hocks from soup. When cool enough to handle, cut meat from bones, chop or shred meat and stir back into soup.
2. Add winter squash, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and lemon pepper seasoning to the pot; stir well to combine. Simmer for 45 to 75 minutes or until peas are soft and squash is tender.
3. Use a portable hand blender or countertop blender to puree half the soup. Return puree to pot and stir until soup has thickened. Taste and add salt, if needed. Ladle into individual serving bowls and garnish with croutons or oyster crackers, if desired.
Kris Wetherbee is a contributing editor to The Herb Companion. She cooks and gardens in western Oregon.
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