Asparagus. I can’t get enough of it this time of year. It’s one of the first bright green vegetables to poke its head out of the ground. We’re on the safe side of winter by now, but stretches of warm days are still likely to be followed by strings of cool ones. Which makes soup a good plan.
I have just enough Mango & Black Bean Salad left from yesterday to stir into some shredded cabbage, and roll it all up in a whole-grain burrito. It should be perfect with this soup.
Remember the vegetable stock of a few days ago? Onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms stems, garlic peels, asparagus ends, parsley – all those flavors will lend a deeper complexity to the soup than straight water alone. And it’s not going to be a cream soup. Instead, the garnish will be some crème fraîche with a mashed avocado stirred in because it will pick up the lemon notes in the soup and also because avocado makes everything better. And we’ll mix in some Sriracha to keep it all interesting. I’m experimenting with a soup that can be served either warm or chilled. Because hot summer days and nights aren’t far away. . . fingers crossed.
ASPARAGUS SOUP WITH SRIRACHA & AVOCADO CRÈME FRAÎCHE
The soup comes together very quickly – start to finish, under an hour. Be sure to save the onion peels (but not the root end), garlic peels, and asparagus ends for your next batch of stock.
This is a puréed soup, and a perfect job for an immersion blender. I can’t sing the praises of the tool more highly. I was a late convert, as I’m reluctant to take on additional appliances or gadgets until I’m certain I’ll use them. The first time I used an immersion blender, I was a goner. I love it. Treat yourself to one, or put in on your birthday wish list.
As I mentioned, I decided to forego cream here. Make no mistake, I love cream in asparagus soup. But I wanted one that could be frozen, and also that could be served chilled. I have a feeling it will make a perfect appetizer of a summer evening’s backyard barbecue, served in demitasse cups, or even shot glasses.
1 yellow onion, peeled, 1/4″ dice
2 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, minced
1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed about 3″ from the bottom, 1/2″ dice
1 quart (32 ounces) vegetable stock
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Sea or kosher salt and grinds of pepper to taste
1 medium or 1/2 large avocado for garnish
8 ounces crème fraîche (or sour cream) for garnish*
Sriracha to taste for garnish
Chives for garnish
A note to my vegan friends: omit the crème fraîche from the garnish, and use simply the avocado with some Sriracha stirred in.
- Film the bottom of a soup pot with olive oil and warm over medium heat. When the oil is hot (it will shimmer, or “ribbon”), add the onions and some salt. Stir occasionally. They should not brown. When they’ve softened and appear translucent, add the garlic and sauté until it gives off that wonderful cooked garlic aroma. Add asparagus and stock. Bring soup to a simmer, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to just maintain an active simmer. Continue to simmer until asparagus pieces are very tender when pierced with a paring knife. Be careful not to cook them to that dreadful army green color.
- When asparagus is done, remove pot from heat. Purée right in the pot with an immersion blender. Alternatively, transfer in safe batches to a food processor or blender. Alt-alternatively, get yourself an immersion blender. Purée the soup until it is a beautifully smooth as you can get it. Stir in the lemon juice and zest (Meyer, if they’re available), and season to taste with salt and pepper. Return soup pot to lowest heat and cover the pot to keep it warm while you prepare the garnish.
- I use a mini-chop for the avocado and crème fraîche purée, but you can just as well mash the avocado on a board until it is really, really smooth, then stir it into the crème fraîche. Either way, add the Sriracha to taste at the end. A word to the wise: start with a small amount, for what I trust are obvious reasons.
- To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Drop a generous spoonful of the avocado-crème fraîche-Sriracha garnish right in the center. Snip some fresh chives over the top.