RECIPE: Asparagus soup
In my frenzy to eat enough asparagus every spring, I inevitably take the speedy route to dinner: steaming, sautéing, broiling, roasting. The aim is to get the stalks from raw to cooked as quickly as possible so I can gobble them up.
Because of this, I’ve neglected soup. But on a particularly cold and dreary spring day, when the rain came down so hard that me and my bag of asparagus drenched were drenched, there seemed no better time to rectify my oversight. A bowl of steaming, creamy asparagus soup would set things right.
In winter, my go-to vegetable soup recipe involves simmering whatever I have on hand (a mix of potatoes and other root vegetables, usually) in stock or water until soft, then puréeing.
I took the same tack with my asparagus, but I added one more layer of flavour. To deepen the character of the soup, I made a quick stock using the asparagus ends and dark green leek tops that usually are thrown away. I simmered the vegetable trimmings in pre-made chicken stock because I had some in the freezer and I was craving something rich and heady. But you can substitute water if you prefer; just toss in whatever herbs you have around and a good dose of salt to bring up the flavours.
Time: 40 minutes
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, more as needed
2 large leeks, halved lengthwise and rinsed
1litre chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons uncooked white rice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, more as needed
1 teaspoon lemon juice, more as needed
Cut asparagus stalks into thirds, separating tips, middles and ends. In a medium pot, bring 2 cups salted water to a boil. Add tips and cook until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain and reserve for garnish.
Separate dark green leek tops from bottoms. Thinly slice the white leek bottoms and set aside.
In a saucepan, combine leek tops, stock, asparagus bottoms and bay leaf. Simmer for 10 to 20 minutes; strain, discarding the solids and saving the stock.
Return empty pot to medium-low heat. Add oil, white leek slices and rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until leeks are golden, about 5 minutes. Pour in 1 cup of the stock. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add remaining stock and asparagus middles. Simmer, covered, over low heat, until asparagus is completely tender, 7 to 10 minutes.
Press soup through a food mill (or purée in a blender, then strain through a coarse mesh sieve; not too fine, you want a little texture). Return soup to pot. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Cover to keep warm.