Easy-peasy minted pea soup

The perfect starter for a spring dinner, this knockout of a soup is based on a traditional French recipe, potage Saint Germain. Don't confuse it with wintry split-pea soup: Starring English peas – petits pois – it's all about freshness and the flavor of the season. My version, kissed with fresh mint, has quite a lot going for it. It's vegetarian. It's so elegant you can serve it at the swankiest dinner party. And it's the easiest thing in the world to make, involving (besides water, salt, pepper and optional garnish) just four ingredients: lettuce, butter, mint and frozen peas. Yep, you read that right. Taste it, and you could swear someone spent half a day shelling fresh ones. Want to make more or fewer servings? Double the ingredients or cut them in half. 

Serves 4-5. 

Ingredients

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1 head butter lettuce or Bibb lettuce, cored and sliced into thick shreds

2 pounds frozen peas (I like the tiny ones), defrosted

The leaves from 6 sprigs of mint

11/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground white pepper

Crème frâiche for garnish (optional)

Instructions

1. Melt the butter in a soup pot over low heat. Add the lettuce, and wilt, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.

2. Add the peas, stir to combine and raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

3. Add 3 cups water, the mint leaves and salt, raise heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to medium low, and simmer for 20 minutes. 

4. Use a stick blender to purée until it's completely smooth (alternatively, purée it in batches using a regular blender or food processor). Add freshly ground white pepper to taste, and adjust seasoning. If garnishing with crème frâiche, whisk it first to thin it, then use a small spoon to swirl a little around the center of the bowl.