Monday, June 20, 2016


I have a perfectly serviceable “fresh asparagus soup” recipe in my archives, although I’ll admit I haven’t revisited it for several years. Nowadays, it’s tough to rotate through my vast repertoire of seasonal vegetable recipes before I either get tired of said veggies or the season is over. Asparagus is particularly challenging because I love it so much I get tempted by new variations every year, but the season for the really good farmers’ market stuff is relatively brief, even in Southern California.

I was apparently in a highly suggestible mood when this recipe from A Cozy Kitchen struck my fancy. It’s not radically different from my old one, but a bit more nuanced—shallot instead of onion, crème fraiche instead of yogurt and milk, no roux, a higher asparagus-to-liquid ratio, and some always-welcome added garlic. It also turned out to be a great test of my fancy new high-powered commercial-grade blender, which I acquired for free from a friend and which is amazing. In fact, I fear this soup might be a bit tough to render smoothly with a less powerful appliance like an immersion blender, because the asparagus is only boiled for a few minutes before pureeing. This (along with the baking soda in the cooking water) gives it a shockingly bright green hue, along with incredible freshness. The flavor is simple, springy and asparagus-forward. The minimal cooking also makes it incredibly quick to prepare: Sautee the aromatics, blanch the asparagus, blend, heat gently and garnish.

Other than doubling the recipe, the only change I made was to add a squeeze of lemon juice at the end, because lemon and asparagus were made for each other and I think nearly every soup needs more acid. I was trying to use up a previously-zested lemon, but if I’d had any to spare, I think lemon zest would have been an even better addition. The original recipe showed this served with grilled cheese, but that seemed to be gilding the lily a bit, so I opted for garlic bread instead.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 pounds asparagus, ends trimmed off, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons creme fraiche, plus more for topping
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Optional: Lemon juice and/or zest to taste
  1. In a small sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until softened. Remove from heat.
  2. Prepare an ice bath for the asparagus and set aside. Fill a large pot with a few inches of water, set over medium heat, and add a few pinches of salt and the baking soda. When the water reaches a simmer, drop in the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain and transfer to the ice bath. Drain again and press out any water in the asparagus.
  3. Add the garlic-shallot mixture and asparagus to blender, along with the chicken stock. Blend until very smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the creme fraiche and 1 teaspoon salt. Give it one more mix and adjust the salt to taste.
  4. Transfer soup back to the pot (if you like, you can run it through a sieve first for extra smoothness) and warm over low heat. Ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of creme fraiche and chives, plus a squeeze of lemon juice or sprinkle of zest if desired.
Serves: 4-6
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

No comments: