Pea Soup with Black-Cat Croutons
5 slices bacon
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large celery rib, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (32 oz.) cartons low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 cups green split peas, rinsed
1 (5 oz.) bag baby mixed greens
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme, crumbled
1-1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 thin, frozen slices firm pumpernickel bread
1 Tbsp butter, melted
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup sour cream, optional
Saute bacon in large pot over medium-high heat until crisp and brown. Remove and set aside.
Add onion, carrot and celery to pan; saute until vegetables begin to soften.
Add garlic; saute for 1 minute.
Add broth, water, peas, bay leaves and thyme; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover pot and simmer until vegetables are tender and peas fall apart, stirring occasionally, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Puree 5 cups soup in batches in blender.
Return to pot.
Stir in salt and season with pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 300ºF
Remove pumpernickel slices from freezer and let thaw for 5 minutes.
Mix butter with olive oil in a small bowl.
Use a cat cookie cutter to cut a shape from each partially frozen slice of pumpernickel.
Lightly brush cutouts with butter mixture and arrange on a cookie sheet.
Bake until crisp, about 15 minutes.
Cool croutons in pan on a rack.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls.
Crumble reserved bacon on top.
Add a cat crouton and a dollop of sour cream to each bowl.