Spring is almost here! The plum tree in our front yard spontaneously burst into bloom last weekend and our garden is fragrant with new blossoms. All over Portland the browns and deep greens of winter are being taken over by splashes of white and pink. Despite the continued rain and clouds, I cherish these little cues that spring is just around the corner. Along with spring, of course, comes asparagus and it’s been wonderful to see asparagus making its way back into the markets.
The Lion loves asparagus–it is one of his most favorite vegetables. We have a common refrain in our house: I ask, “can I get you anything from the grocery store?” He replies, “asparagus!” It doesn’t matter if it’s late summer or the dead of winter, he just loves them! I try to dissuade him if we’re not in asparagus season, but his love for them often wins out and we end up eating a lot of not so amazing asparagus. Now that spring is almost here, the good asparagus are finally making a comeback and we can enjoy them to our hearts’ content. When we lived in Chicago, my dad would make amazing asparagus soup every time he found good asparagus, which was quite often in the spring. Thus, we had a never ending supply of delicious soup until we moved to Portland. After the move, the Lion requested that I learn to make it, and I finally think I have it down.
Because of the Lion’s love for asparagus, he has learned a few handy tricks. Did you know that the snapping trick for asparagus doesn’t actually work as well as we think? In most cases it’s probably best to just trim off the bottom inch or so. The Lion rinses off the asparagus with the bottom rubber band in place and then simply cuts off the bottom inch in one fell swoop. Once that’s done, we release the discarded bottoms into the compost and the rest of the asparagus is good to go!
This soup is easy to make and really highlights the delicate flavor of the asparagus. Their flavor is complemented by sweetness from onion, earthiness from garlic, and a sharp bite of spice from red chili flakes. Because we don’t want to deaden the flavor with too much fat, we use whole milk and water as the primary liquids. Feel free to add a swirl of cream if you’re feeling indulgent, though! We keep the herbs simple and just use tarragon for its mild anise-like sweetness.
Once everything has become sufficiently tender, the soup is blended together. This can either be done in an immersion blender or in a high speed blender. Both versions are delicious, but I’m coming to love the high speed blender version. It makes the soup as smooth as silk and also seems to bulk it up and make it seem much creamier and richer than it actually is! The last step is my favorite: all the tips from the asparagus are reserved for the end. When the soup is returned to the pot after being blitzed in the blender, the tips are added and are gently poached in the finished soup to finish cooking and remain perfectly al dente. I hope you enjoy this delicious celebration of spring as much as the Lion and I do!
Papa Hathi's Asparagus Soup
|Prep:||Cook:||Yield: serves 4||Total:|
A rich and flavorful celebration of a wonderful spring vegetable!
- 1 lb asparagus spears, trimmed and sliced into 1" pieces with 2-3" length tips reserved
- 2 small onions, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 Tbsp olive oil, and more for garnish
- 1-2 cups vegetable stock or water
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 Tbsp dried tarragon or 2 Tbsp fresh tarragon, minced
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly grated parmesan and freshly ground black pepper to garnish
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. When it has a slight shimmer, add the onions and sauté until nearly translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the raw, pungent smell of the garlic diminishes and the chili flakes are aromatic. Be careful not to burn any of the ingredients.
- Add the sliced asparagus stems, reserving the tips for later. Stir to combine. Add enough stock or water to just barely cover the asparagus. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to allow to simmer. Simmer until the asparagus stems are tender. Add the milk, tarragon, and salt and bring to a bare simmer.
- Take off the heat and allow to briefly cool. Either blend using and immersion blender or a high speed blender. If you want it to be extra smooth, strain with a fine mesh strainer (we typically do not do this). Return to the saucepan, add the asparagus tips, and bring back to a bare simmer. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, then turn off the heat. Adjust the salt to taste. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Ladle into bowls, garnish with black pepper, freshly grated parmesan, and a swirl of olive oil. Enjoy with some crusty bread or a bright salad!