In warm-weather states, by the time July rolls around, spring is a distant memory.
Here in the North Star state, though, we can still find hints of it in our produce section in the form of local asparagus. So before this versatile vegetable takes its inevitable bow and leaves the stage to make room for the corn, tomatoes, eggplant and other bounty heading our way, courtesy of late summer, let’s take a moment to appreciate it one more time.
The question is how. There are a million ways to enjoy these green stalks of flavor, and I think I’ve tried them all over the years. Grilled, roasted, steamed and stir-fried, all forms of asparagus have seen my dinner table at one time or another. But one incarnation that doesn’t happen often enough is soup.
Asparagus makes a solid base for a vegetable soup. It’s good sliced and added to a simple potato soup, but its subtle, sophisticated flavor seems tailor-made for an elegant puréed soup, which is what I opted for this week.
There is something about a bowl of silky smooth soup that elevates it far beyond comfort food, a category many soups fall into naturally. One added step of pureeing it turns it from weeknight family dinner fare to a dinner party affair to remember.
While this soup is delicious warm, it also has the added appeal, especially when the weather is warm, of being as good or better when cold. Because the soup is thickened by the addition of a potato, the cold version is vaguely reminiscent of vichyssoise, only with a brighter, lemony flavor.
One thing to keep in mind is that when a soup is chilled, some of the flavors become slightly dulled, so I always taste it after it’s cold and re-season with more salt and lemon juice if necessary. It’s a small, but critical step that can mean the difference between a bowl that’s fine and one that’s great.
If you’re looking for a main-course option, try adding a generous spoonful of crabmeat or a few cooked shrimp to each serving.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @meredithdeeds.
Lemony Cream of Asparagus Soup
Note: This is a light, easy-to-make soup, perfect for a warm summer evening. If you would like to make it more of a meal, consider adding some lump crab to each bowl. When puréeing hot soup, either use an immersion blender, or with a full-size blender, make sure to fill the container only halfway or the process will cause the hot liquid to “explode.” From Meredith Deeds.
• 1 1/2 lb. asparagus
• 5 c. chicken stock
• 1/2 c. chopped shallots
• 1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
• Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
• 3/4 c. heavy cream, divided
• 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, divided
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• Grated lemon peel for garnish
Peel and trim the bottoms of the asparagus. Rinse spears, pat dry and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, reserving tips.
In a large pot, bring stock to a boil. Add the asparagus tips and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until just tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the shallots, potato and lemon zest. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender. Add the remaining asparagus and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or until the asparagus is tender. Remove from heat and let sit (and cook) for 15 minutes.
Working in batches, purée soup with blender until very smooth. Add 1/2 cup cream and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Cover and chill for at least for 4 hours or up to overnight.
In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup cream until just starting to thicken. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice. If necessary, season with more salt.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with reserved asparagus, lemon cream mixture and lemon peel.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 165 Fat 11 g Sodium 320 mg
Carbohydrates 13 g Saturated fat 6 g Total sugars 4 g
Protein 7 g Cholesterol 35 mg Dietary fiber 2 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 carb, 1 medium-fat protein, 1 fat.