A Favorite Asparagus Soup to Welcome the Asparagus Season!

Hadley, Massachusetts, near my home in Amherst, proudly claims to be the Asparagus Capital of the U.S. In late May this little town has its moment of fame when the farmers bring their crops to groceries and outdoor markets, and the locals grab bundles and head for their kitchens. This annual asparagus harvest has inspired me for more than twenty years to create dishes featuring these beautiful spears.

I spotted this year’s first bunches  a few weeks ago in a nearby market, and promptly put several in my cart. At home I pulled out a recipe I had created a decade ago for a silken smooth asparagus soup. This potage takes only minutes to assemble and is made with sliced asparagus that are sautéed with chopped leeks, and then simmered in stock until tender. After this mélange is pureed, swirls of crème fraîche scented with lemon are stirred in. Chopped chives, toasted bread crumbs, and small dollops of that distinctive lemon-scented crème fraîche make simple but delicious garnishes.

Like most soups, this one can be prepared ahead, so you will need only to reheat it and add the finishing touches at serving time. Offer this soup for a light lunch of supper with a salad (I love a mix of torn romaine, mint, and diced ricotta salata) or with grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch or a light supper. Or use it as an opener for a dinner. Of course, if you are lucky enough to live in the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts, make it with Hadley spears!


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Asparagus Soup with Lemon Crème Fraîche and Chives

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
1 1/2 pounds slim asparagus, 2 inches of tough stems removed and spears cut into 1–inch pieces
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
Kosher salt
3/4 cup crème fraîche
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs (recipe follows)

1.Heat the butter in a large, heavy pot (with a lid) over medium heat. When hot, add the leeks and stir and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the asparagus pieces and stir to coat with butter for 2 minutes. Add the stock, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat, and cover. Cook at a simmer until the asparagus are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Season the soup with 1 teaspoon of salt or to taste.

2.Puree the 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 into the soup and save the remainder for the garnish. The crème fraˆche will thicken the soup lightly. (Soup can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat.)

4.Ladle the soup into 4 soup bowls, and garnish each serving with a dollop of the remaining lemon crème fraiche. Sprinkle each serving with some chives and bread crumbs.

Serves 4 with larger servings or 6 with smaller ones.

Toasted Bread Crumbs

½ loaf  good quality peasant or country bread (sourdough works particularly well) with crusts removed
1 tbsp olive oil

1.In a food processor, pulse enough bread slices to make 1 cup coarse crumbs.

2.Heat the oil in a medium, heavy frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the crumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until they are crisp and rich golden brown, for 3 to 4 minutes. You will not need all the bread crumbs;store extra in a plastic self-sealing bag and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Makes 1 cup

If you don’t have time to make bread crumbs from scratch you can use 1/2 cup panko crumbs. Sauté in 1 tbsp olive oil, stirring, until golden, only a few minutes. You’ll only need to use about half of the crumbs. Save extra for another use.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2024

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