You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook’s year. I get more excited by that than anything else. ~ Mario Batali
Asparagus is one of the first telltale signs of spring and a very welcome one for me this year. The lingering winter weather may finally have turned this weekend as we have been experiencing brilliant sunshine and warmer days. A change in the seasons brings about a transformation, both in nature and in our mood, and a trip to the grocery store to see the arrival of spring vegetables is uplifting and creates new inspiration in the kitchen.
Springtime is a time of revival with the planting of new vegetables and herbs and the harvesting of beautiful seasonal vegetables and fruits, like asparagus and strawberries. Our menus at home begin to change and we can enjoy dining outdoors with lighter, healthier foods.
Craving something to satisfy the soul on these lingering cool nights before the full onset of spring, I made a Fresh Asparagus Soup. Simple, light, and healthy, it is a bowl filled with the flavor of one of the season’s first vegetables. Local asparagus will soon be available in most regions across the country.
I used organic chicken broth rather than homemade chicken stock, which makes the soup lighter in flavor and texture. The asparagus is the star of this version. The aromatics are simple: a sautéed chopped leek added just a bit of sweetness, which was combined with celery for a more complex flavor. I always prepare soup in my Le Creuset Dutch Ovens because of the even heat distribution and the ability to keep the soup on a very low simmer before serving.
Once the asparagus was tender, I puréed the soup in batches until it was very smooth, giving it a nice consistency. If you prefer a thinner soup, you can add more chicken broth to achieve the desired texture.
I always adored the cream of asparagus soup from my childhood where you would find the occasional prize of an asparagus tip or piece of stalk hidden in a few bites of the creamy soup. Recreating that memory and highlighting the main ingredient in this updated and healthier version, I blanched the tips of half of the asparagus and then added them to the pot before reheating the soup and serving it.
While you may think this is a “cream of” soup, there is no cream in this recipe and you don’t need it. The addition of crème fraîche adds a nice touch for serving and a bit of tanginess to the almost sweet soup. Freshly grated white pepper gives it a bit of heat.
Served with a loaf of hearty, fresh artisan bread and a wonderful Vermont cultured butter with flakes of sea salt, this soup is perfect for a light supper. Add a glass (or two) of crisp, white wine (like a Sauvignon Blanc) and a simple dessert, dine alfresco, relax, take in the beauty of the new season, and enjoy all that it has to offer.
May springtime be around the corner where you are. Have a wonderful Sunday!
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Fresh Asparagus Soup
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
You would never know that this beautiful soup does not contain cream. It's rich texture comes from the asparagus and chicken broth puréed until the mixture is very smooth. The soup is simple and elegant; perfect for a first course, a luncheon, or a light supper. Another option would be to serve the soup with toasted, homemade Parmesan croutons.
Be sure to use local, fresh asparagus when it becomes available.
2 pounds, fresh green asparagus
1 large leek, chopped
1 large stalk celery, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 cups organic chicken broth
Freshly ground white pepper
crème fraîche, for garnish
Cut tips (about 1 1/2 inches) from 1 pound of the asparagus and set aside.
Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces.
Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add leeks and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add asparagus pieces, Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
While soup simmers, blanch asparagus tips in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then quickly place in an ice bath to stop them from cooking further. Remove pieces and drain on on a paper towel. Cut into smaller pieces, if you prefer.
Purée soup in batches in a blender until very smooth (almost frothy), transferring to a bowl, and then return to pan. Add in the cooked asparagus tips, reserving several to garnish the soup. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper. Bring soup to a boil, making sure asparagus pieces are warmed through and tender. (If you want a thinner texture, add a little more chicken broth.)
Garnish with crème fraîche, and additional asparagus tips, if desired.
Inspired by a recipe from Gourmet