Tag Archives: asparagus

Cream Of The Crop

Spring seems to be dragging its feet around here.  One day it’s warm, the next day it’s cool, while the night’s plunge into the low 40’s and occasionally the 30’s.  It looks like our tomato planting is put off another week. Those 2600 little darlings will just have to wait it out in the hoop house until the night temperatures warm up.

The good news is that the rain and warm daytime temperatures are wonderful for glorious spring asparagus!  Do I see a pattern here?  Wasn’t I just making a pronouncement last week that it’s one of the few vegetables I will only use fresh?  Well, that was last week.  We bought 10 pounds to put up, taking full advantage of fresh Michigan asparagus while it’s plentiful now; and boy is it ever!  Nearly every stall at the farmer’s market is overflowing with the stuff.  I know that we will be reminded of our favorite veggie in this wonderful cream soup long after the season is over.

There are many approaches to asparagus soup, but typically the essentials involve asparagus, onions or leeks and chicken stock.  With spring leeks available, that choice was a no-brainer.  However the addition of garlic, fresh spring tarragon and vermouth kick it up a notch.  And of course there’s the cream.  Honestly, it’s decadence is worth the calories!

Cream of Asparagus Soup:

  • 2 lbs. fresh asparagus
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 small leeks, using white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Snap off the tough stem ends from the asparagus spears.  Cut the tips off a dozen or so and set aside for garnish. Chop the remaining asparagus into 1 inch pieces.

In a small saucepan, blanch the asparagus tips for 2 minutes, then plunge into ice water.  Let drain on paper towels.  Reserve for later.

In a heavy soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the leeks and garlic and saute until tender and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.

Fragrant leeks and garlic

Fragrant leeks and garlic

Getting better all the time

Getting better all the time

Add the asparagus and 4 cups of chicken stock.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add the chopped tarragon.  Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth, about 2 minutes. Alternately, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender, then return to the pot.  Add lemon juice and heavy cream.  Reheat the soup to serving temperature.  Ladle in shallow bowls and garnish with reserved asparagus tips.

Tip:  This soup is also great cold, so pack it for your next lunch if you’re luck enough to have leftovers.

Serves: 4

Spring never tasted so decadent.

Spring never tasted so decadent.

“Worries go down better with soup.”

Crazy Love

Certain foods simply go together; peas and mint, tomatoes and basil, apples and pork, mac and cheese, fries and ketchup.  Ooops, I digress.  For me the first spring asparagus inspire endless combinations for salads, soups, omelettes and tarts.  Asparagus have always been my favorite veggie; one of the few that I will only use fresh.  In asparagus, texture is everything!  I have found the combination of asparagus, leeks and pancetta to be down right decadent; I mean who needs chocolate?  Ok…maybe for dessert!

I was taught at a young age, that you “eat with your eyes”, meaning all the visual elements in a recipe matter.  The tender-crisp asparagus, smokey pancetta, the buttery leeks;  the dish is greater than the sum of its parts.  The citrus adds a counter-balance to the richness.  Bingo…seasonal, local and delicious.

Perfect asparagus from our neighbors at Fulton Street Farmer's Market

Perfect asparagus from our neighbors at Fulton Street Farmer’s Market

Crazy Love Asparagus:

  • 4 oz pancetta, cut in 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 pound asparagus, woody ends trimmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces on the bias
  • 1 1/4 cup leeks, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 3 Tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. In a large non-stick skillet, saute pancetta, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until crisp and lightly golden.  Drain on paper towels.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to pan.  Add asparagus and leeks to pan and saute until asparagus is crisp tender, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add in the drained pancetta, garlic, lemon and orange zest, toasted pine nuts and parsley and saute for about 1 minute, until fragrant.  Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and salt.  Serve immediately.  Swoon.
I just can't stop making this!

I just can’t stop making this!

“It is spring again.  The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”

—-Rainer Maria Rilke