Nothing says spring to me like asparagus. I know in many parts of the country, spring is just a far off dream, but here in Florida, we're starting to see asparagus in the market at peak-season price. I just can't help but think that it is spring when that happens.
It used to be that I knew spring had sprung when tender shoots of asparagus peeked out from the soil of my perennial garden in Ohio. There is nothing like home grown, fresh picked asparagus. And it is so easy to grow! The only down side is that it takes a few years to get the bed established. If you have the patience, you will be rewarded... unless your husband's in the military and then you get to be Johnny Appleseed and continually plant for other's enjoyment.
I did at least get to enjoy one decent harvest from my asparagus bed in Ohio before we had to leave. Doesn't that look fabulous? I hope the folks that bought our house like asparagus. This year should be a bumper crop!
Asparagus is such a great vegetable. You can include it in dishes for any time of the day. It's great in quiche. It's great wrapped in prosciutto and roasted. I like it steamed with a sprinkling of smoked salt. It also happens to rock as a soup. While this recipe can really highlight a number of vegetables (think broccoli or cauliflower), it's especially good with asparagus.
It starts with shallots and asparagus. And a little butter. You didn't think I'd forget about the butter, did you? While, ultimately, the soup will be pureed, I like to chop all the ingredients small so that they cook quickly. Usually when I make this soup, I'm in a hurry for some sustenance.
Saute the shallot in butter over medium heat. Add some celery and the asparagus pieces. Be sure to trim the stems so that you are only using the tender part of the spear. I once thought that because the soup was pureed I would use the whole spear. BIG mistake. The asparagus was pureed, but the soup still had a distinct woody texture. Not a very pleasant experience, let me tell you.
When the vegetables are softened and slightly browned, add the chicken broth. Cook at a simmer until the vegetables are very tender, almost falling apart. I save the tips of the asparagus for garnishing the soup. About five minutes before the vegetables are done, I cook the tips in the broth using a piece of cheesecloth to keep them separated.
Remove the soup from the heat and let cool for a few minutes before pureeing in a food processor or blender. In my experience, you don't have to worry too much about over processing it. It maintains a nice texture even with a fair amount of processing. Return the soup to the pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the cream and stir until it just reaches a simmer. Remove from the heat and serve!
Cream of Asparagus Soup
Yield: 2 servings, double/triple, etc. as needed
1 TBS butter
1 small shallot, diced
1/4 cup celery ribs, diced
2 cups chopped asparagus spears, woody ends removed
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup cream (heavy or light, depending on your mood)
salt & pepper to taste
Saute the shallot and celery in the butter over medium-high heat. Reduce heat as needed to prevent too much browning. When the shallot and celery are beginning to soften, add the asparagus. Saute for another 3-4 minutes.
Add the broth and bring the soup to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are very tender, about ten minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and let cool slightly before pureeing in a food processor or blender. Return the soup to the pot and place back over the heat. Add the cream and salt and pepper. Heat, stirring, until it just reaches a simmer. Remove from the heat and serve.