A fresher version of a favourite springtime soup!
This cheerful soup embraces all that’s wonderful about springtime – fresh new vegetables and herbs just waiting to be transformed into bright, tasty dishes. Asparagus is ideal for soup and this variation is lighter than some as it has less cream, yet is full of flavour. I love this recipe because it uses all parts of the asparagus – the tough ends to enhance the stock; the middle parts to give the soup substance and the tips for an impressive garnish, along with the deliciously flavoured goat cheese. Use minced chives if you can’t get your hands on pretty little chive blossoms.
- 1 1/2 pounds (675 grams) fresh asparagus (about 20 – 24 stalks), rinsed
- 4 cups (1 L) chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter
- 3 leeks, white parts only, split lengthwise and well rinsed
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) minced shallots
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) minced fresh parsley
- dash cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) each salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) heavy (35%) cream
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) softened goat cheese
- 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) minced chives
- Cut one inch (2.5 cm) 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; set aside.
- Cut the remaining tender stem middle pieces into 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) lengths.
- Thinly slice the cleaned; mince the shallots, garlic and parsley as well.
- In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Add the tough asparagus stem ends, cover the pot and reduce heat until it is just simmering; let cook for 10 minutes then remove the asparagus ends 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 tender (12 – 15 minutes). Note that you don’t want to overcook the asparagus or it will lose much of its vibrant colour.
- While the soup is cooking, zest the lemon. 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 adjust seasoning as needed. The soup can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated then reheated prior to serving.
- Just before serving, add the cream. Juice the lemon that was zested for the goat cheese garnish and add the juice to the soup as well. Warm thoroughly but do not let soup boil.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each one with a dollop of the herbed goat cheese, several of the reserved asparagus tips and a sprinkling of chive flowers.
- Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.