I make a lot of soup. Soup accomplishes a lot of things, all at once: it’s usually pretty quick and easy to prepare, it uses up a lot of those extras or straggler ingredients hanging about in the fridge, it lends itself to large batches, and it freezes well. In short, it’s a pretty economical food. I used to have a few standard soups that I would prepare; however, when I joined my first CSA back in 2007 I found that I regularly had an abundance of vegetables that needed to be processed into something, and soup became a weekly adventure.
Of course, that abundance in vegetables occurs mostly in the summer and fall. During the winter I still make soup out of lingering winter squashes, but by spring, I’m no longer making soup regularly. My stash of soups right now in the freezer is depressingly low after months of lunches and last-minute dinners.
Since one of my challenges is to make large batches of healthy, sustainable meals so that I can restock my freezer, it figures that I will be making a few batches of soup in the coming weeks. I picked this challenge because, although I am in the habit of making and freezing food during the summer and fall, I usually don’t cook as economically in the spring. At this time of year, my attention usually turns to gardening rather than cooking. And it’s bad enough that I don’t have the convenience of reaching into the freezer for an easy meal, but it also means that I waste energy with more frequent trips to the store, and my freezer certainly isn’t working as economically being half empty. I’m using this challenge to get me back on track.
And, just as luck would have it, the perfect vegetable has come along to rescue me from the navy bean/butternut squash soups of winter: asparagus! Blending asparagus into a soup is one of the few ways I care to eat it long after the local season has passed. I will be buying copious quantities for the next few weeks.
The following recipe is based on my general recipe for vegetable soups. At different points in the year, I will switch out the asparagus for other seasonal produce. Different vegetables get their own herb pairing: asparagus and broccoli with thyme, zucchini with rosemary, fresh peas with mint. I always use homemade chicken stock as the base, but a good quality vegetable stock can be substituted to fit into a vegetarian diet. And although I’ve never done so, silken tofu can be added in place of the cream for a vegan soup. Also, for this soup, I add in a small additional quantity of chopped asparagus for a texture contrast.
Cream of Asparagus Soup
- 2 pounds green asparagus, rough chop, plus 4 or 5 additional spears finely chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 boiling potato, peeled and cubed
- 5 to 6 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- Salt & pepper to taste
Begin by sauteing the onion in a bit of olive oil in a 4 quart heavy pot over low heat until soft, stirring frequently. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the potato and asparagus and cook while stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat until soup is at a simmer, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until asparagus is very tender.
Puree the soup by blending in batches, or by using an immersion blender. The soup should be smooth in consistency. Return to pan if using a blender, add thyme and cream, and bring to a slow boil. Add finely chopped asparagus pieces and simmer until the pieces are slightly tender. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.