Two Easy Spring Soups for Light Suppers

Since the lockdown began in Massachusetts, at various times, my local supermarkets have run low or run out of cornmeal, chicken stock, lentils, pastas, milk, flour, butter, and my husband’s favorite local ice cream. Sometimes there’s been no chicken breasts or thighs, no pork chops or tenderloins, and no ground beef, ingredients that often anchor our evening meals.  Now with meat processing plants either being shut or unable to run at full capacity due to the virus, I wonder if there will be more restricted offerings at the meat counter. If so, I plan to make light soups with a touch of seafood or meats as garnishes and serve them for supper along with a seasonal salad.

Asparagus Soup with Crème Fraiche and Lemon plus “Twenty -Minute” Brodo with Ravioli, Chard, and Parmigiano are easy to prepare and can be finished with simple “add ons,” such as crispy julienned prosciutto or sautéed cubes of pancetta. A few pan-seared sea scallops or some leftover shredded chicken also give potages a little extra flavor and heft.   

The asparagus soup is warm and creamy but also refreshingly light. You can top it with  some of those scallops or with crispy bits of pancetta. The “twenty-minute” brodo, my new go to recipe when time is short, is prepared with good purchased chicken stock, quickly cut ribbons of chard or escarole, and purchased ravioli or tortellini. You can add leftover shredded chicken to it or sprinkle the brodo with frizzled strips of prosciutto.

So, if the meat counter is bare, try these soups and pair them with one of these toppings or with something inventive from your fridge. I hope all of you are staying safe and well.

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Asparagus Soup with Lemon Crème Fraîche and Chives and 20-Minute Brodo with Ravioli, Chard, and Parmesan Cheese

Asparagus Soup with Crème Fraîche, Lemon, and Chives
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
1 1/2 to 2 pds medium asparagus, tough ends broken off and discarded, and spears cut  into 1-inch pieces to yield 4 cups
4 cups regular or reduced-sodium chicken stock
3/4 cup crème fraîche
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons chopped chives or parsley
1/4 cup toasted panko crumbs (recipe follows)

1.Heat butter in a large, heavy pot (with a lid) over medium heat. When hot, add leeks and stir and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add asparagus pieces and stir to coat with butter for 2 minutes. Add stock, and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, and cover. Cook at a simmer until the asparagus are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 15 minutes.

2.Puree soup in batches in a food processor, blender, or food mill. Or use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pot.

3.In a small bowl, whisk together the crème fraîche and lemon zest. Whisk half of the crème fraîche mixture into the soup and save the remainder for the garnish. Stir in lemon juice and cayenne pepper, and season with salt to taste. If you used reduced sodium stock, you’ll probably need to season well with salt. (Soup can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat.)

4.Ladle soup into soup bowls, and garnish each serving with a dollop of the remaining crème fraiche. If using scallops arrange two scallops in the center of each serving; if using pancetta, sprinkle it over the soup  Garnish each serving with some chives and with panko crumbs. Serves 4.

Toasted Panko Crumbs
2 tsp olive or canola oil
1/4 cup panko crumbs

1.Heat oil in a medium, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add panko crumbs and stir until golden, only a few minutes. Watch carefully so they do not burn.Remove and set aside.

Adapted from Soup Nights (Rizzoli 2016) by Betty Rosbottom

Add Ons:

Pan Sautéed Sea Scallops
In a medium, heavy skillet over medium high heat, heat one tablespoon each of butter and vegetable oil. When hot, add 8 medium sea scallops, and cook until light golden brown and just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side, depending  on their size. Season scallops with salt and pepper with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Sautéed Pancetta
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium heat When hot, add 1/2 cup diced pancetta (cut into small 1/4- inch cubes) to the pan.  Sauté, stirring, until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes or more.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.



20-Minute Brodo with Ravioli, Chard, and Parmesan Cheese
1 bunch chard or 1 head escarole
7 cups good quality chicken broth or stock such as Swanson’s stock (if available  original rather than reduced sodium or unsalted)
20 (about 7 to 8 ounces) purchased ravioli (See cooking tip)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
2 tbsp chopped chives or parsley

1.Remove and discard stems and tough center veins from chard leaves. Then stack a few leaves and cut crosswise into strips about 1/2 -inch wide. Cut enough to yield 4 packed cups. If using escarole, remove and discard any bruised or brown leaves from the head. Then halve the head lengthwise and cut each half crosswise into strips1/2- inch wide to yield 4 packed cups.)

2.In a large heavy saucepan set over medium heat, heat the broth or stock until it comes to a nice simmer. Add the chard or escarole and cook until starting to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes.

3.Add the raviolii ( and if using, 3/4 cup shredded chicken). Cook according to package directions or until ravioli have risen to the top of the pot, usually about 3 minutes. Taste and season the broth with salt and pepper. (If you used reduced sodium or unsalted stock, you will probably need additional salt.)

4.Ladle soup into shallow soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with a generous tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and then with chives or parsley. If using, garnish each serving with some crispy prosciutto. Pass extra Parmesan in a small bowl. Serves 4.

Cooking tip:  I love the refrigerated stuffed ravioli from my local Trader Joe’s. Their Arugula and Parmesan ravioli are my favorite. Whole Foods also offers a nice selection of stuffed ravioli with varied fillings. Other stuffed pastas such as tortellini can be used as well—just make certain to cook according to package directions.

Add Ons:

Crispy Julienned Prosciutto
Cut 4 thin slices (about 3 ounces) prosciutto into strips about 2 inches long by 1/2 –inch wide. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add prosciutto strips, separating them if they are stuck together, to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.  (Prosciutto strips can be prepared 2 hours ahead; cover loosely with foil and leave at room temperature.)

Shredded or Julienned Leftover Chicken
Put your leftover rotisserie or home roasted chicken to good use by shredding or slicing it into thin strips. You’ll need about 3/4 cup. Stir into the brodo when you add the ravioli.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2020

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