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Split Pea Soup With Ham From 'Lighten Up, America!'

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[Photograph: Hélène Dujardin]

Split pea soup was a favorite of mine as a kid (did that make me a weird kid?). I was just as happy eating it from a can as I was from a big, lovingly attended pot. But I rarely make it these days; in fact, I had forgotten about the soup until opening up Allison Fishman Task's new cookbook, Lighten Up, America! Her lightened version isn't much different from the classic. She still includes chunks of ham and slivers of bacon, but bulks up the nutrition with hearty chunks of carrots and leeks. Instead of adding a traditional smoked ham hock (too salty in her book), she stirs in a little smoked paprika to finish. It's not quite the same as a hock, but it's still a fine addition to a warm, comforting supper.

Why I picked this recipe: Cold, snowy January weather is the perfect environment for hot, porky split pea soup.

What worked: I especially liked the double dose of pork here; eating ham and bacon kept the soup from feeling like diet food. Adding smoked paprika at the end of cooking was also a nice touch.

What didn't: My peas needed a little bit longer in the pot before they turned tender. I gave them about 1 hour before serving. I also added extra salt.

Suggested tweaks: If you're short on time in the evenings, you can soak the split peas ahead of time (8 hours or so is plenty), and they'll cook up much more quickly.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Lighten Up, America! to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.

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