This cheerful, delicately-flavoured soup embraces all that’s wonderful about springtime – fresh new vegetables just waiting to be transformed into tasty dishes. Asparagus’ mild taste is ideal for soup and this variation is light and pleasing. I like to include parsley because it helps perk up the colour of the soup. While you don’t have to treat the tips with care as this recipe suggests, they do make for an impressive garnish, surrounding the tangy goat cheese.
1.5 pounds fresh asparagus, rinsed
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter
3 leeks, white parts only, split lengthwise and well rinsed
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup minced parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup goat cheese
1 lemon, zest only
2 tablespoons minced chives
- Cut one inch off the top of each asparagus stalk, reserving these pretty tips for the soup’s garnish.
- Flex the remaining stalks near the bottom and snap off the woody stem ends (should be about 1.5 – 2” in length); set aside.
- Cut the remaining tender stem middle pieces into ½ inch lengths.
- Thinly slice the leeks; prepare the shallots, garlic and parsley as well.
- In a medium pot, bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Add the tough stem ends, cover the pot and reduce heat until it is just simmering; maintain this temperature for 20 minutes.
- Remove the asparagus pieces with a slotted spoon and discard.
- Put the asparagus tips into the stock and cook for about 1 minute, just until they begin to soften. Remove the tips with a slotted spoon and place them into a bowl filled with ice water, to stop them from cooking further. Once the tips are cooled, place on a clean towel to dry thoroughly, then set aside.
- Pour the stock into a large heatproof bowl or measuring cup and set aside.
- In the same pot (now empty), melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and shallots; sauté until they are softened (about 3 – 4 minutes). Add garlic, parsley and cayenne; cook 1 minute. Add the chopped tender asparagus stalk pieces and cook 2 minutes more.
- Add the reserved broth and turn up the heat until the liquid just begins to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover pot, and cook until the asparagus is nice and tender (15 to 20 minutes).
- While the soup is cooking, put the goat cheese in a small bowl and add the lemon zest and chives. Stir together until well blended; cover and refrigerate until serving time.
- Once the asparagus is tender, remove the soup pot from the heat. Puree the soup mixture using an immersion blender, or in small batches in a blender or food processor. You want it to be very smooth.
- Taste and add salt as needed. The soup can be made ahead to this point and reheated prior to serving.
- Just before serving, add the cream and warm thoroughly.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each one with a dollop of the herbed goat cheese and several of the reserved asparagus tips. If you have access to chive blossoms, it’s even better to pull them apart and sprinkle the individual petals over the soup – thanks to Chef Jason Laurin of Essence Catering for that tip!
- Serve hot or just warm – it’s even nice at room temperature on a hot day.