Posts in Soups

Cream of Asparagus Soup

May 20th, 2015 Posted by Appetizers, Soups No Comment yet

asparagus soup

The thing I love about cooking seasonally: there’s always something new just around the corner. The second I feel like roasted root vegetables are starting to get monotonous, things that are fresh and green appear and wake everything up. I like this quote from Gary Zukav: 

We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming. We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are. They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse. But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives.

Food is a contribution to the conversation of the seasons. The food I love to cook is influenced by the time of year, the weather, the way the sun sets and the direction of the wind, and the food that comes out of the ground. It gives us the energy to play outside, to garden, to curl up with a book, to rest with a calm mind. Whatever tasks the season requires, the food of that season can fulfill. The joy of spring is lived that much deeply while munching on asparagus; winters cold is eased with steaming golden butternut squash. 

Oregon asparagus
This is a celebration of our short lived asparagus season, and it’s so delicate and rich.  

We had this soup warm the first time we ate it, but the cold leftovers were super refreshing after a warm spring day spent riding bikes and laying in hammocks. Hot or cold, it’s surprisingly light and refreshing, finishing silky and smooth with lots of asparagus flavor. The addition of potato also gives it some added body. I served it with poppy seed crackers and a dollop of greek yogurt with orange zest and juice added (recipe included with the soup). 

If you don’t have an immersion blender, I would recommend getting one. It makes pureeing soup, salad dressings, and sauces so easy and you actually end up with less to clean. It really makes my life easier and I say a silent word of gratitude that I have it every time I get it out for a job like this. 

blend up soup
The garnishes on this soup highlight the asparagus and the orange zest. A simple orange flavored yogurt and a few roasted asparagus spears are added. It was nice to something that was a bit of a texture difference. 

Orange yogurt is used as a lighter alternative to sour cream or creme fraiche. It’s fat free, easy to make, and adds a subtle sweet citrus note that goes really well with the asparagus. Roasting the extra asparagus is optional. I found it easy to throw in the toaster oven for about 8 minutes, and it was much less fussy then I imagined. 

I have tried a lot of different brands of Greek yogurt. Tillamook’s Farmstyle Greek (0% milkfat) is by far, the richest, thickest and best tasting one I’ve tried. I’m addicted. The other reason I like Tillamook over other brands: rBST free and made in Oregon, with no strange ingredients and not a ton of sugar. I have added this to so many things: salad dressings, enchiladas, garlic sauce for these sweet potato burgers that have become a favorite around here, and just recently: a casserole! It is so versatile and delicious. 

asparagus soup-9
This soup is a light lunch, a first course for dinner, or even an appetizer if served in small bowls or shot glasses. The important thing is that it’s enjoyed and remembered that spring only comes once a year. Just like the bees in the garden, buzzing about with or without you to watch them, the Earth keeps turning and seasons change without us willing them to do our bidding. It’s gone, before you know it, and we have only to look forward to the next conversation to begin.

asparagus soup

Cream of Asparagus Soup
 
Recipe Type: Soup, Appetizer
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds asparagus, fatter stalks if possible, trimmed (see note)
  • 4-8 stalks thin asparagus, for garnish
  • 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped white or yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion or 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic (about one garlic clove)
  • 2 teaspoons minced orange zest
  • 1 cup 1-inch diced russet potatoes
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
  • 4 fresh mint leaves (optional)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground white pepper
  • —————————————-
  • Orange Yogurt Garnish
  • 1 cup greek non-fat yogurt
  • zest of 1 orange
  • juice of 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon agave syrup, or to taste
Instructions
  1. Wash the asparagus well, then cut into 3-inch pieces, all the way to the tip. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a dutch oven (or your favorite pot for soup) over medium heat. Add both kinds of onions and cook, stirring, for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, orange zest, potatoes, and broth. Bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the asparagus and return to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes more, or until just tender.
  3. Add in the mint leaves, and using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. If you want to use a blender, puree the soup in batches, returning to the pot when fully blended. Add in the cream and heat until hot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the orange yogurt garnish. You can also make the yogurt a day ahead of time and refrigerate until serving the soup. To make the asparagus garnish, heat the oven or small toaster oven to 400 degrees. Trim the asparagus and place on a small baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly caramelized but still firm.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls, then dollop with the yogurt. Serve with poppyseed crackers if desired.
 
Notes
Asparagus can be woody and fibrous at its root end. The trick is, the amount you need to trim off can vary depending on the stalk itself. To find out how much to trim a bunch of asparagus, take one spear with the end in one hand and the tip in the other. Hold it in front of you and bend the tip end towards the root end. The asparagus stalk will snap where it is still tender, leaving the woody part for the compost (or homemade stock) bin. Do this with 3-4 stalks. Line up those stalks with the remaining stalks in your bunch of asparagus. Use these as a guide to trim the rest of them more quickly by just cutting with a knife so that the entire bunch is about as long as the hand-snapped stalks. You could do each stalk by hand, but I’ve found that this method still results in tender and tasty spears and is accomplished faster.

Resources:

Recipe adapted from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table
Immersion blender, Cuisinart, Amazon
My favorite Greek yogurt, Tillamook Farmsyle Greek

Other recipes I’ve made from Kathy Casey’s book you might like: 
Poppy seed crackers
Salted chocolate mint ice cream

Hoppin’ John

December 30th, 2014 Posted by Holiday Traditions, Lunch, Main Dishes, Soups No Comment yet

The New Year is full of symbols of prosperity. Jade plants, collard greens, oranges, and black eyed peas—these are all supposed signs of prosperity and wealth. I like foods that symbolize things. It makes me wonder how the food got such a reputation, why it is considered lucky, and that maybe, just maybe, it will work? It’s fun to start the year off with a good omen. Wether the folklore is true or not, it’s not a bad way to start out eating something delicious! 

Black eyed peas, collard greens, and smoked ham are natural friends in this recipe. The jalapeño and red chili flakes give this a really nice mild to medium heat level.

hoppin' john new years day

There is additional cooked ham added to this, you could almost just use the smoked ham hocks if you didn’t have extra ham laying around. When the hocks are done cooking with the soup (at the very end) remove them to a cutting board and let them cool a bit. Then use a knife to cut off the fat and roughly chop up the meat. It is so tender. 

Cooking beans is a lesson in planning ahead, but if you didn’t remember to soak your beans over night, you can try the quick soak method. I just filled a pot with 8 cups of water and two pounds of washed and picked over beans. Then you bring it to a boil and let it boil for 2 minutes. After that, you turn the water off and move the beans off of the heat while they soak for one hour. Drain them again and they are ready to use in this recipe—you will cook them longer with the soup. 

hoppin' john new years day

After they quick soak, add in the ham hock and some epazote if you have it.

hoppin' john new years day

Epazote is traditionally used in Mexican cooking, but it really adds a nice flavor to a pot of beans, so I thought, why not? I’m glad I chanced it. 

epazote in hoppin' john

This dried Epazote has a mild sweet flavor, which is a nice undertone to the ham and the veggies and rice in this soup. I recommend an Oregon Pinot Gris with this. Happy New Year’s! Cheers to 2015! 

hoppin' john new years day

 

This recipe was slightly adapted from Saveur

 

 

Hoppin’ John
 
Recipe Type: Soup
Author: Sugar Pickles
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8-10 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. dried black-eyed peas
  • 2 smocked ham hocks
  • 1 tablespoon dried Epazote (optional)
  • Olive oil for the pan
  • ½ cup finely chopped cooked ham
  • ¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 2 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb. collard greens, ribs removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 5 cups cooked long-grain white rice for serving
  • green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Soak your beans over night or do the quick soak method. For quick soak: Add the rinsed and picked over beans to a large pot and cover with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Let stand one hour, then drain.
  2. Bring soaked peas, ham hocks, and 8 cups water to a boil in a 6-qt. Dutch oven. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, skimming foam occasionally, until peas are tender, about 30-35 minutes. Drain peas, reserving 2 cup cooking liquid along with ham hocks; set aside.
  3. Add some olive oil to a 12-qt. pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chopped ham, red chili flakes, garlic, jalapeños, carrot, onion, celery, and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add reserved ham hocks, and cooking liquid, along with collards and 10 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until collards are tender, about one hour. When the collards and the beans are tender, remove the smoked ham hocks to a cutting board and let them cool slightly. Extract the meat, slicing through the ham hock and cutting off and around the fat chunks. Add all the meat back into the pot and discard the ham fat. Add the cooked and reserved beans back into the pot.
  4. Stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Spoon rice into bowls and ladle soup over rice and add sliced green onions.
 
Notes
Slightly adapted from Saveur.

 

 

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