In springtime and a soup lover's fancy turns to ... asparagus, of course.
Nothing says spring like tender stalks of Asparagus officinalis. Generally, I think this seasonal favorite is best served grilled with a simple drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but a nice chilled soup is another way to enjoy asparagus, especially if you're entertaining on a warm April evening.
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There are plenty of lovely (and easy) recipes for cream of asparagus soup, but I found the results to be more about the cream and less about the asparagus. I landed on a blended soup made with asparagus, potatoes, onions, celery and garlic, a recipe that is a bit lighter and a lot healthier.
After all, asparagus is nothing if not good for you so why counter all that with heavy cream. This super food is jam-packed with nutrients including folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium. It is a rich source of antioxidants and delivers folate, which helps fight cognitive decline. Asparagus also contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic. Oh, and it has tons of fiber.
Speaking of fiber, my friend, yoga instructor and soup mentor, Catriona Bowman, suggests leaving the tough, fibrous base on the asparagus spears while cooking the soup and then, after blending, strain the soup to avoid having to pick the hard fibers from between your teeth. "Think matchsticks," she says.
Catriona said the ends of the stalk add quite a bit of flavor, not to mention a load of fiber, to the soup. She's right, of course, but if you are not up to the commotion of straining, simply snap the ends off and cook only the tender part of the spears. You still will find it necessary to give the soup a good whirl in the blender to get it perfectly creamy.
This recipe from Anne Burrell, chef and Food Network personality, is served chilled and garnished with asparagus tips and feta. Besides adding a festive look to the dish, this two-part garnish adds just the right amount of snap with the barely blanched tips and just the right amount of salty flavor with the feta.
• M. Eileen Brown is the director of strategic marketing and innovation for the Daily Herald and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at soupalooza.com.