I made this Asparagus Soup today for my Cooking Club. I gather monthly with a talented group of women to share our passion for cooking, good food, and stimulating conversation. We take turns meeting at each others' homes. Everyone brings a homemade dish related to a specific theme, and today's theme was "spa cuisine." Some other themes have been kid-friendly dinners, barbecue, veggie patch, and Thanksgiving. First, the hostess does a cooking demonstration of her dish, then we all enjoy a delicious meal and the good company. From the group I have collected noteworthy recipes and helpful tips for entertaining. Along the way, close friendships have formed. I can't think of a better way to spend my time than with special friends and amazing food.
Judging by the dining table conversation today, I think this Asparagus Soup is the best dish yet that I have made for the Cooking Club. The presentation was a big hit. I served the soup in cute, little espresso cups, like a passed hors d'oeuvre. I thought this was a fitting portion since the women usually want just a little of each of the many different dishes. It's really a lot of food. Nevertheless, one friend insisted on getting a big bowl of soup from the kitchen, and she savored every bite. Everyone couldn't believe that this luscious soup has no dairy. They enjoyed the subtle, bright tarragon flavor and the smooth consistency. I achieved the smoothness by using a Cuisinart blender, but note that the ultimate smooth soup comes from the pricey Vitamix blender. The homemade herbed croutons threw the soup over the top.
Somehow I haven't made this soup in a while, and now I know that I have to make it more often. I have the recipe on an old recipe file card that I wrote decades ago. I no longer know the original source for the recipe, but if you do, just let me know.
Recipe for Healthy Asparagus Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 leek, white and light green parts, sliced medium
2 large celery stocks, diced small
1 teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste, used in increments
Fresh finely ground black pepper to taste
2 large sprigs of tarragon, tear the leaves off
4 cups low sodium chicken broth, used in increments
1-½ to 1-¾ pounds fresh asparagus (about 2 bundles from the market or 2- 12 oz packages from Trader Joes)
¼ cup water
Croutons or parmesan cheese for serving
1. In a medium-sized sauté pan, heat the olive oil on medium. Sauté the celery, onions, leeks, a ½ teaspoon of the salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Be careful not to burn the leeks. Add in the tarragon leaves and sauté another minute. Put the sautéed onion mixture in a blender. Set aside the sauté pan for later use. When the onion mixture has cooled a little, add about 1-½ cups of the broth to the blender and puree well. Start the blender on low, then turn it on high. Put the pureed onion mixture in a 4 quart sauce pan and set aside. Set aside the blender for later use.
2. In the meanwhile, wash and trim the asparagus. Remove the tough, bottom part of each asparagus stock. In the sauté pan, put in the trimmed asparagus and water with the lid on. Put the pan on the stove on medium high. When the water starts to boil, turn the heat to medium low. Steam the asparagus until it is just fork tender. Do not overcook. Carefully drain the cooking liquid to the blender. When the asparagus cools enough to handle, cut the tips off of each asparagus stock and reserve. Chop the remaining asparagus into large pieces and place in the blender. Pour in about 1-½ cups of broth. Do not operate the blender until the asparagus has cooled down somewhat. Run the blender on low and then on high. Puree well. Add the pureed asparagus to the sauce pan.
3. In the sauce pan, stir the pureed onion mixture and pureed asparagus together with as much of the remaining broth to make your desired thickness. I usually add in all of the broth. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper to your liking. At this point, you can "park" the soup and asparagus tips in the refrigerator and heat and serve the soup later. Or proceed to heat and serve the soup now. Turn the stove on medium heat and stir the soup occasionally until hot. Serve immediately. The bright green color will turn to a grey-green if the soup sits and heats too long.
4. Serving suggestion: serve each soup bowl with some reserved asparagus tips and a sprinkle of croutons or parmesan cheese.