Split-pea soup to help chase away winter for Meatless Monday

No one's saying you have to go meatless just because it's Monday -- but as incentive to join the growing movement, every week we're offering an animal-free recipe.

Split peas are a kind of superfood, an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Homemade split-pea soup is much, much better than the stuff that comes out of a can and is ridiculously easy to make. This recipe eschews ham (you won't miss it, we promise) to cook up a fat-free, gluten-free and entirely plant-based pot of soup that still has plenty of flavor.

You will need:

4 cups dry split peas 1 bay leaf 1 tablespoon dry mustard 8 or more cups water 1 teaspoon salt 4-6 cloves garlic 1 1/2 white or yellow onions 2 carrots 2-3 stalks celery 1 medium-sized red potato (or several baby red potatoes) Cracked black pepper to taste 3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Optional: Toasted sesame oil for garnish

1. Combine the split peas, bay leaf, dry mustard, salt and water in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, partially cover and cook for twenty to thirty minutes, until peas are starting to soften. (I like to keep a kettle of water close to a boil while I make this soup; that way, if I need to add water, it's already heated to temperature.) Dice the celery. Slice the potatoes. Along with the peas, they'll thicken the soup beautifully, so there's no need for flour or other thickening agents. I like to save the onions for last, so my eyes aren't burning throughout the entire prep process. 3. Add the veggies to the peas and (if needed) add just enough water to cover everything. Press the garlic into the soup. Bring the soup to a boil again, then lower to a simmer and cook for forty minutes or so, until the vegetables are soft. The peas should also be soft, but not completely falling apart -- you should still be able to pick out a split pea or two in the mixture. 4. Add the red wine vinegar and crack lots of fresh black pepper into the soup to taste. Cook for another five minutes or so, until the flavors have blended. For an extra perk of flavor (and a little bit of healthy fat), drizzle the soup with toasted sesame oil before serving -- or just dish it up as is.

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