Pick a favorite soup recipe and let the experimentation begin
A big reason I like to make soup is that it is so forgiving. A soup recipe can be followed to the letter -- or not. There's always room for a little ad-libbing. There are so many ways to improvise, substitute and experiment.
As a result, I am not usually drawn to fussy recipes that call for straining and whisking and roasting and sauteing -- especially when it's all in one dish!
However, this Lemony Roasted Asparagus soup sounded like it was worth the fuss. It's a vegetarian take on the Greek avgolemono, a silky-rich lemon chicken soup made with egg yolks. In this case, the broth is made with asparagus and water and then blended. It's thickened with roux, and then egg yolks are added to create that silken texture.
The tricky part -- where following the rules is essential -- is when you add the eggs to the broth. You must do this in stages, just as the recipe calls for. Otherwise, you may end up with scrambled eggs in your soup.
The fun comes in the serving.
To the bottom of the bowl, you add roasted asparagus, then the soup, and finally, you top the dish with the fried oyster mushrooms, fresh dill and oregano.
So, yes, it's a bit of a labor of love, but the result is a creamy, delicately flavored soup amplified by the crunch of the roasted asparagus and the crackle of the fried mushrooms.
It's a perfect starter for a spring lunch, and while it is meant to be served hot, I enjoyed it the next day cold.
You could say I did improvise, after all.
• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's vice president of sales and marketing and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at soupalooza.com/.
Lemony Roasted Asparagus Soup
2 pounds asparagus
1 onion, coarsely chopped
½ cup dry white wine
6 cups water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound oyster mushrooms, torn into small pieces
Chopped dill and dried oregano, for garnish
Trim the asparagus. Slice the stalks diagonally 2 inches long. In a saucepan, combine half the asparagus, onion, wine and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, over moderately low heat until the asparagus are soft, about 1 hour. Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the broth through a fine sieve, pressing on the solids. Wipe out the pan.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Melt the butter in the saucepan over moderate heat. Whisk in the flour until golden, just a few minutes. Whisk in the asparagus broth until smooth and bring to a gentle simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the lemon juice. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot broth, then whisk in half of the remaining broth. Return this mixture to the broth in the saucepan and simmer, whisking frequently, until hot. Season with salt.
On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the remaining half of the sliced asparagus with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 8 minutes, stirring, until the asparagus is golden but still firm. In a nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the mushrooms and cook over moderately high heat until golden and crisp, 8 minutes.
Transfer the roasted asparagus to shallow bowls. Ladle the soup over the asparagus and top with the mushrooms. Garnish with dill and oregano and serve.
Adapted from a recipe from foodandwine.com