May 19, 2022

A la Carte: A Special Soup for Summer … Asparagus, of Course!

Lee White

I had promised to send you my friend Stacie’s flan recipe, but time, as often, got away from me last week. 

Perhaps I was dreaming about a  book I just finished reading, “We Begin at the End,” a sort-of growing up and murder mystery recommended by my good buddy, Rick Koster of The Day. Or maybe I was thinking about a new novel I am reading now, “The Plot,” written by an author whose books I have loved.

This one is a novel inside a novel written by an author who is writing a novel. I even went out for a late lunch/early dinner with friend Ginger Smyle.  After our meal, we got bought  ice cream in Mystic, and sat on a bench beside the Mystic River, pretending we were tourists.

But most of all, I am dreaming about vegetables, for my CSA begins in a couple of weeks.

There weren’t be many veggies ready for my weekly trip to Stone Acres in Stonington, so I drove to Trader Joe’s and bought a few packages of their frozen vegetables (almost as good as the ones we will get at the farm markets by mid-July).

And in the supermarket I bought what is still available or somewhat is local: asparagus.

I will cook as much asparagus as I can, because it will not be fairly local until next spring. And remember, those skinny stalks are not as delicious as the fat ones. Break the bottom at the point where it wants to, then use a potato peeler up to about an inch of the “flower.”

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Adapted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child (Alfred Knopf, New York, 1994)

Yield: about 2 quarts

1 cup sliced onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds fresh asparagus, washed, bottom broken and peeled about an inch from top “flower”
2 quarts lightly salted boiling water
2 tablespoons flour
freshly ground white pepper (black if you don’t have white)
½ cup heavy cream, crème fraiche or sour cream, optional*

Cook onions and butter until tender and translucent. In the meantime, cut the tender green from the asparagus tips; drop the tips into boiling water and boil 2 minutes, or barely tender. Dip out with a skimmer, reserving water, and refresh tips in bowl of iced water to set the color; drain and reserve.

Chop the remaining stalks into one-inch lengths and add to the onions with a sprinkling of salt. Cover and cook slowly 5 minutes.

Stir in flour and cook, stirring, 3 minutes more. Remove from heat, and, when bubbling stops, blend in the hot asparagus cooking water (I skim the water into the mixture.) Simmer, uncovered, 25 or 30 minutes, or until tender enough to puree.

When the mixture is a bit cooler (maybe 15 minutes), pour into blender (or use a soup blender). If you like the soup clearer, you can use a sieve or Foley Food Mill. The soup will be a lovely pale green color—to keep it that way, reheat it only just before serving. Carefully correct seasonings.

You can serve this soup hot or cold.

If you are using cream, crème fraiche or sour cream and serving it hot, gently reheat the soup and add the cream just before serving. If you are serving the soup cold, refrigerate the soup and swirl in the cream before serving. To decorate each bowl of soup, garnish with the asparagus tips.

*The soup does not need cream but it is delicious. Another way to use the cream is to swirl a little cream into each bowl before adding the asparagus tips.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years, but now lives in Groton, Conn.

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