Monday, May 23, 2011

How to Make Asparagus Soup

I am a firm believer in learning how to cook by understanding technique rather than by reading a recipe. Eyes glued to instructions for carrot soup will result in carrot soup, but energy devoted to understanding the principles of puréed vegetable soups will be rewarded with dozens of outcomes.

For example, until three weeks ago, I had never made asparagus soup. But while buying asparagus at the farmers’ market recently, I thought, “Why not?”

The basic process held: cooking aromatics (i.e. onion, scallion, garlic, ginger), adding the vegetable, adding liquid (water), cooking the vegetable until soft, puréeing with an immersion or stand-alone blender, seasoning to improve flavor and texture (with salt, pepper, lemon juice, butter and/or cream).

Employing the above as my guide, I made my asparagus soup using just two ingredients (asparagus and scallions) bought from Nevia No at the farmers’ market and five ingredients (water, butter, unrefined sea salt, fresh ground pepper and fresh lemon juice) that I always have in the kitchen.

I started by sautéing some chopped scallions (whites and greens) in butter in a soup pot (uncovered), stirring often to prevent the scallions from browning. While that mixture cooked, I washed the asparagus (about 1½ pounds) and chopped into smaller pieces (about 1½ inches). Instead of throwing away the rough stems, though, I put them in a second pot with the five cups of water I was going to use as my liquid, brought it to a boil and made a quick asparagus stock.

(I believe most store-bought stocks are mediocre and a waste of money; use water and spend your dollars on better vegetables!)

When the scallions were soft (10 minutes), I added the edible asparagus pieces and cooked for five minutes over medium heat. I then added my asparagus stock and brought the mixture to a boil. I lowered the heat and let it simmer (partly covered) for about 30 minutes, until the asparagus were very soft.

After letting the mixture cool, I used a hand-held immersion blender to purée everything until smooth. No asparagus pieces remained. I tasted and added salt (keep going), pepper and a little lemon juice for flavor, plus butter for texture and flavor.

Am I allowed to say it was delicious?

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