Pea Soup

In June, when shelling peas debut for their short season, don’t mess with nature’s perfection. Pluck them from their pods and eat them straight, or cook them simply so their flavors pop in your mouth. Sample a pea from a pod before buying. If they are starchy instead of sweet, they are past their prime.

1 leek, split lengthwise and rinsed well
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 bay leaf
6 whole black peppercorns
1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 pounds green shelling peas (to yield about 3¾ cups green peas)
Freshly ground black pepper
6 basil or mint leaves, thinly sliced
Crème fraîche (optional), to garnish

1. Separate the dark green parts of the leek from the white and light green parts. Roughly chop the dark green parts and finely chop the white and light green parts.
2. Make a broth: add the dark green leek parts to a medium saucepan along with 5 cups of cold water, celery, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
3. Strain and keep the broth warm. You should have about 3½ cups.
4. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the white and light green leek parts, season with salt and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the peas and stir to coat in the oil. Add 2 cups of the warm broth to the peas, bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes.
5. Remove 1/4 cup of the peas, straining out the liquid, and set them aside.
6. Using a blender, puree the soup until very smooth, adding broth as needed to loosen. Set back over the heat, adding more broth until it reaches the desired soup thickness. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir the reserved whole peas into the soup.
7. To serve, place a few basil or mint slices in each soup bowl, add the soup, and, if you choose, top with a dollop of crème fraîche. The soup can be served warm or cold. Serves 4 to 6. Makes about 4 cups. –Jill Santopietro for The Boston Globe.