One of the problems living in a big city like Los Angeles is that I have never really experienced seasons. And with that I did not grow up eating what the seasons offered. It was not until I worked in a restaurant that I learned that citrus is a winter fruit.
As I grow in my food knowledge, I am trying to be more cognizant of eating what is natural to the particular season. After all, a strawberry in the middle of May and June from a little farm tastes infinitely superior to any strawberry you might find in Stater Bros. in December. Just as an apple picked from a tree up in Oak Glen (also known as Apple Country in Southern California) will taste a lot better than an apple in May or June.
One of the great vegetables of Spring is asparagus. Those bright green shoots that are so crisp yet tender when cooked properly, slightly bitter but also herbal and oh so tasty. Claire and I love them simply sautéed in a little olive oil with salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
But I have found out that asparagus in soup form can be just as tasty. So when I stumbled upon this recipe from Food & Wine, I figured it would be a tasty, easy Spring dinner. And when the parmesan shortbread is added, while the fat content sky rockets, the complexity of the soup also rises.
The flavor of the soup was not overly asparagus, but was there, while the tarragon added an almost minty flavor to the soup. Instead of garnishing with lemon zest, I used the remaining quarter cup of heavy cream and made some lemon crème fraiche which I had hoped would add the lemon flavor I love with asparagus, but was not as noticeable as I wished for. The parmesan shortbread added a nice savory/salty flavor, not to mention buttery, which was lightened by the lemon zest. The soup was also not overly heavy which makes it a great soup for warmer months.
Alongside the soup I made a simple salad of fresh watercress, which is slightly peppery (although no where close to arugula), but also has a nice fruity flavor, reminiscent of pears. With the watercress I added some thinly sliced breakfast radishes, which are a lot mellower than the radishes used, say, in Mexican cuisine, along with some fresh sliced oranges from our tree. I tossed the salad in a white balsamic whole grain mustard vinaigrette. It was a great salad with lots of flavor, even though it was composed of such few ingredients.
We enjoyed this dinner with Monkey Bay’s Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Most recipes for asparagus soup suggested a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and I understand why. The herbal, grassy notes from the wine were very complementary with the soup.
While fresh sautéed asparagus will still be my preferred cooking method, the soup is a nice alternative, especially when the comfort of a warm bowl of soup is very enticing.
- Recipe by Carla Hall
- Active: 50 MIN
- Total Time: 1 HR 30 MIN
- Servings: 6
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (6 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 cup tarragon leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- Finely grated lemon zest, for garnish
- MAKE THE SHORTBREAD: In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the flour, cheese, thyme, lemon zest and salt. Add the butter and egg yolks and beat at medium speed until lightly moistened crumbs form. Gather the crumbs and knead to form a 2-inch-thick log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 325° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Slice the log 1/4 inch thick and arrange on the baking sheets. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden around the edges; let cool on the sheets.
- MAKE THE SOUP: In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the onion, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer until the asparagus is tender, about 10 minutes.
- Add the 1/4 cup of tarragon and the parsley. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender. Return the soup to the pot, add the cream and peas; rewarm. Season with salt and white pepper and garnish with tarragon and zest. Serve with the Parmesan coins.