Call it quirky, but it’s no secret in my home that what we eat on any given day is not merely influenced, but is in fact governed by, the weather. Dinner plans for barbecue on a warm, sunny day, for instance, can turn on a dime when clouds appear; hearty stew, eagerly prepared on a cold afternoon will most surely be held for another day when the weather turns its head. Call it quirky.

Spring this year has certainly turned its head, surprising us with some of the coldest weather we’ve seen in decades. And so, along with the help of some holiday leftovers and a nostalgic look at the past, I was conveniently inspired to prepare three soups that are perfect for the change in the weather.

A meaty hambone, left over from my Easter dinner, found its way into a large soup pot, providing the base for a hearty, much loved split-pea soup, while the unrelenting cold weather conjured endearing childhood images of lunches comprised of Campbell’s tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Reaching yet further into the past, the sight of these two wonderful mainstays in the panoply of potage (that’s French for soup) led me to a third, yet rather obscure soup called Puree Mongole that was frequently featured on menus dating back to the 1930s. Puree Mongole, which has nothing to do with Mongolia, was invented by Chef Louis Diat at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York, who is also credited with the creation of vichyssoise, that classic (often mispronounced) cold leek & potato soup that is so good on a hot summer day. Pronounce it vee shee swahz, not vee shee swah.

Simply put, Puree Mongole is nothing more than split-pea soup with the addition of tomato. If you happen to have some cream of tomato soup on hand, all you have to do is combine the two and voila, Puree Mongole. Add a bit of curry powder with a dash of sherry and a dollop of sour cream and you have a soup that was a favorite of John F. Kennedy. Just the thing for a blustery afternoon. Don’t forget the grilled cheese.

Here’s an excellent recipe for split pea soup. If you don’t have any homemade tomato soup on hand, you can easily transform it into Puree Mongole with the addition of a perfectly acceptable can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup. Dilute it with milk.

Split-Pea Soup

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

3 tablespoons flour

3 quarts water

2 cups dried split peas, rinsed and drained

2-inch cube salt pork

1 leftover hambone (optional)

salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large heavy pot

Add the onion and celery and lightly sauté until soft

Add the flour and mix until it disappears

Add the water, split peas, salt pork and


Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until peas are soft (about 1 1/2 hours)

Puree the soup through a food mill or in a food processor

Season to taste with salt & pepper.

For Puree Mongole

Combine equal amounts of pea soup and cream of tomato soup.

Perk it up with curry powder and a dash of sherry

Finish it off with a generous dollop of sour cream.

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Frank Chlumsky

Frank Chlumsky, former executive chef of Philander's restaurant in Oak Park, teaches in Chicago at Kendall College's School of Culinary Arts. In his 37-year career, Frank has owned restaurants in Michigan...