Ocean City Today
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Recipe for creamy asparagus soup

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | Mar 22, 2018

(March 23, 2018) As the sun begins to take a more commanding presence, nature comes to life.

Gorgeous flowers play peek-a-boo and the color of green is a wonderful sight. Asparagus are synonymous with spring and are considered the king of vegetables.

The impressive stalk, majestic tip and unique flavor are impressive indeed. Thick or thin, chefs have delighted connoisseurs with amazing ingenuity.

But before we delve into specifics, a quick quiz takes us on the path of culinary trivia. The following facts are taken from “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Asparagus.”

How long does it take to grow asparagus? If you guessed three years you are correct. Asparagus are planted in the ground three years before they can be harvested for the full season.

Does one know that white asparagus are just green asparagus grown in the dark? When the spears emerge from the ground, the sunlight turns the stalks green. Farmers plant approximately six inches of dirt on top of the plant so in essence it grows underground. When the tips break the surface, the white asparagus are dug up.

The world record for eating asparagus is held by Joey Chestnut. He took top honors in April 2011 at the Stockton Asparagus Festival by eating 9 pounds 5.2 ounces of deep fried asparagus in 10 minutes. By the way, he earned $1,500 for his efforts.

Fun facts make way for fabulous preparations. Cooking asparagus on the grill adds a whole new dimension and give the asparagus a slightly smoky flavor.

Generously brush asparagus with olive oil. This keeps the spears from sticking to the grill rack. Place the asparagus directly over the coals. Grill uncovered until crisp, turning occasionally.

The key to roasting asparagus is a high oven temperature. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place asparagus on a baking sheet or in a baking dish and drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Season asparagus with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast until asparagus are cooked but retain some firmness.

The best way to cook asparagus without adding fat is steaming. They can be cooked in a traditional or an upright steamer. Peel the asparagus from the base of the head to the end of the stalk.

By removing the tough skin, you can control the doneness of the asparagus. Cook until crisp-tender. Do not peel if the asparagus are thin in diameter.

When you cook asparagus on the stove, it is best to slightly salt the water. This flavors the asparagus as they cook. Place the peeled spears in a large skillet and cover with 1-inch salted water. Simmer and cook until crisp-tender. Again, do not peel if the asparagus are thin in diameter.

No matter how you prepare asparagus, they will continue to cook after they have been removed from the source of heat. Placing them on a cooling rack brings the internal temperature down quickly. Serving limp, over-cooked asparagus is a sign of a novice chef.

As the winter bids adieu, pots of hearty stews diminish. But that doesn’t mean soups are put on the back burner. Texture broths coincide with the change of seasons. The key is the ability to adapt to variance.

Spring is indicative of freshness and lightness. The broth, vegetables, and protein must reflect this transformation.

Creamy asparagus soup is rich in flavor and velvety smooth. It can be served as a soup shooter, an appetizer, or main course. This delightful dish is not only perfect for the spring but also for special occasions such as Easter or Mother’s Day. Enjoy!

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Ingredients

extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 small leeks, white and light green parts only, thoroughly clean, then chop

2 celery ribs, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, plus extra for garnishing

kosher salt

2 bunches asparagus, stems trimmed

2 small Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced

1quart chicken stock

¾ cup heavy cream

½ cup good quality frozen peas as a garnish

 

1.  Coat the inside of a pot with olive oil over medium heat. Add the butter, leeks, celery, garlic and 1 tablespoon parsley. Season with salt, cover and sauté vegetables until very soft and aromatic, about 8 minutes.

2.  Remove the tips from the asparagus and reserve. Cut the stalks of the asparagus into 1-inch lengths and add them to the pot. Peel the spears with a vegetable peeler if they are thicker than 1-inch. Add the potatoes and stock. Taste for seasoning and add if needed. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for only 20 minutes.

3.  On a separate burner, bring a small pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat. Have a small bowl of well salted ice water on standby. Cook the asparagus tips in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove them and plunge immediately into the ice water. When the tips have cooled, remove and drain any excess water. Repeat this process for the peas but only cook for 1 minute.

4.  Chop the asparagus tips and set aside.

5.  Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree the asparagus stock mixture. Strain through a mesh strainer, if needed. Add heavy cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

6.  Garnish with fresh asparagus tips, peas and parsley. Serve immediately.

*This recipe calls for good quality frozen peas. There is nothing wrong with generic frozen peas. However, in this dish the peas are a garnish and will stand out against the velvety asparagus soup so a better quality is recommended.

 

Secret Ingredient – Spring. “Every flower must grow through the dirt.”

– Laurie Jean Sennott

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