Asparagus Soup

by Lori on May 2, 2010

Spring green.  A color that begs for a definition, but I can’t come up with one.  It’s the color of tender, new leaves, each one a different hue.  And when I look out my kitchen window throughout the day, I see beautiful shades of green enhanced by the sun’s direction.  So when I stumbled upon a recipe for asparagus soup, I was hit with that Spring green color again.  I couldn’t resist.

The necessary ingredients for this soup.  Look at all the green getting ready to load your body up with vitamins.  I don’t know which vitamins, but green means good for you in my book.

You will only need one trimmed leek.  That means you cut off the tough, darker green tops, or you can be like me and buy yours already trimmed from Trader Joe’s.

There is only one bad thing to say about leeks.  They harbor fugitives and it’s illegal to have fugitives in your soup.  That is sandy, dirt hiding in between the layers of the leek.  They need a good washing.

So I sliced them up…

…and dropped them into a bowl of tap water.  See that dirty leek hanging out on top?  Take your hand and swirl the leeks around in the water.  The grains of sand and dirt will fall off and land on the bottom of the bowl where they belong.  Some of the dirt can be stubborn, so don’t be shy about rubbing any pieces that look like they’ve got dirt hanging on.

Grab handfuls of the cleaned leeks out of the water bowl.  You could skim them off the surface with a slotted spoon or a sieve.  Whichever method you employ, just leave the dirty water behind.  Set the wet leeks on a towel.

Gather the towel up around the leeks.  You could use a salad spinner, but I didn’t want to dirty mine for such a small amount.  I just went outside with the wadded up towel in my hand and swung it down in a chopping motion to get the water out.

Next, chop one stalk of celery, ends trimmed and cleaned of any dirt, and one medium onion (or in my case two small onions).

Add them to a pot with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  If you’re really watching the calories, you can use spray oil to get everything going.  But I went for the olive oil because I wanted the flavor.  Cook, uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, and allow the veg to soften but not brown.  Certain pots and pans conduct heat so well that the browning begins before you know it.

Trimming the tips off the asparagus will reveal those gorgeous shades of green.  Set the tips aside.

Then snap the woody ends off.  Some snap one asparagus and use it as a guide for the rest of the bunch.  I am against this practice.  I find that each asparagus spear has a different snapping point just like me.  Since this is only one pound of asparagus (roughly 20 pieces), I chose to break them off individually.  It’s all about control, people.  I exercise it whenever possible.

Chop the rest of the asparagus.  These were just shy of an inch.  I’m not sure if I had cut them smaller, if my soup would have resulted in a brighter green color…more on that later.

Add them to the tender leek, onion and celery mixture and add a quart of chicken stock.  You could substitute vegetable stock and make this vegetarian.  Bring the stock up to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover, cooking for 20 minutes.

While the asparagus simmers away, bring a small pot of water up to a simmer and add a teaspoon of white vinegar.

Carefully drop and egg into the simmering water to poach.  If you’re making this soup for more than one person, use a big enough pot or saucepan and add the other eggs in the same fashion.  I was making the soup for my lunch, so I just did one egg.

Spoon some of the foam off if necessary and gently splash the hot water over the top of the egg.  Alternatively, you can poach an egg in the mircowave as described here

Rest poached egg on a paper towel to absorb poaching liquid.

Grab your immersion blender and get going on the soup.

Blend until smooth and creamy, which you will achieve without having to add any milk or cream.  I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in the color.  I should have added some frozen green peas to perk up the color, but I wasn’t thinking that far ahead.  Hunger was ruling my brain, as it so often does, and I stayed with the recipe.

Return the soup pot to low heat, add the reserved asparagus tips and simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Season to taste with salt, and pepper if you’d like.  Just enough time to toast up 4 slices of baguette in the broiler or you could also use a toaster.

Assemble the toasted baguette and poached egg and drizzle the soup with a little olive oil. I rubbed the warm baguette slice with a piece of cut garlic. 

Disappointing color aside, this is what made this soup so yummy: the egg with its silky yolk mixed with the slightly garlic flavored crouton.  It pulled everything together quite nicely.  Nothing over-powered the other.  This was a good lunch soup, complete in its representation of the basic food groups.  I offered some to my husband who quickly wrinkled up his nose proclaiming his less than stellar opinion of asparagus.  I urged him on, and he tried it.  For someone who doesn’t love asparagus, he was pleasantly surprised.

Asparagus Soup with Egg on Toast

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 stick celery, trimmed and chopped
1 leek, trimmed, washed and sliced
1 medium onion (any color except red), peeled and chopped
1 pound asparagus, woody ends snapped off
1 quart chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian soup)
4 eggs
4 slices baguette or ciabatta bread
1 garlic clove, cut in half for rubbing on bread
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste*

In a heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the celery, onion and leek.  Sweat for 10-12 minutes until the vegetables are soft.  Avoid getting too much color on them.

While the vegetables are cooking, chop off the tips of the asparagus and reserve.  Chop the remaining stalks and add to the pot once the vegetables are cooked.  Cover with chicken stock, bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, covered.

After 15 to 20 minutes, carefully ladle the soup into a blender, being very cautious as it’s hot.  Blend in batches to avoid spraying hot soup everywhere.  Blend on high until the soup is emulsified and creamy.  Alternatively, blend with a stick blender.  After blending, season to taste with salt.

Return the soup to the pot and add the asparagus tips.  Simmer until tender, about 5-7 minutes depending on thickness of the asparagus.  In the meantime, bring a small pot of water to a boil and poach the eggs until the whites have set and the yolks are still runny; toast the baguette slices in a toaster or under a broiler.  Serve the soup with the bread resting on top to hold the egg, sprinkle a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper on top of the egg and drizzle the soup with olive oil.

*Depending on the saltiness of your stock and your personal tastes, you should be cautious here.  I used Kitchen Basics brand of stock and estimate that I used a teaspoon of kosher salt in this soup.  I did not measure it.

(Recipe adapted from Serious Eats who adapted it from Jamie Oliver.)

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruthanne (in Seattle) May 3, 2010 at 6:05 pm

What a wonderful blog! Thanks for everything. I have just gone back to the first of March when it seems like you started and I can't believe how my tastes seem to match yours with the exception of anise flavoring, but. . . your style is simple and delicious and when I read about the macarons I knew I had found a somewhat kindred spirit. I am on my third Meyer Lemon Tree, growing as it will here in Seattle. Many thanks for the lovely recipes and inspiration!

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Lemons and Lavender May 5, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Hello Ruthanne! Thank you for visiting my blog and for saying such nice things about it. I have only been at this for 2 months, so I don't have a lengthy archive yet. I am so glad you're feeling that I actually have a style! Oh macarons…my greatest weakness (I have many). Welcome and I hope you stick around for a while!

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