Everyday-to-Elegant Asparagus Soup

One of spring's great classics is a steaming bowl of asparagus soup. This is the recipe I've followed for many years, in part because it's so simple, in part because I change the recipe, just slightly, to move from an everyday and almost rustic asparagus soup to a richer, smoother, more elegant soup made to impress. This one's a keeper!

Asparagus Soup


TESTIMONIALS
"Seriously yummy!" ~ Amy
"Just made this for my sick boyfriend. He loved it!" ~ Sonia
"I love food-saving recipes, but they are rarely as tasty as this one." ~ Cordel
"... it was delicious!" ~ Stephanie via Facebook


A few years back, a foodie friend and I shared a patio supper with a new acquaintance. The spring night was unseasonably warm and the conversation soon turned familiar.

When the woman boasted about her husband’s kitchen prowess, we asked if he had a specialty. Soup! she answered and we were suitably impressed since some men’s culinary crafts extend no further than the grill.

She elaborated then, with apparently genuine enthusiasm, that the so-called specialty entailed nothing more than opening a can.

Now, please, before making assumptions about food snobs, please know that my sister and I were raised on Campbell’s (tomato and mushroom) and that my pantry always includes several cans of both.

But homemade soup is so easy – and fast and healthful – to make, I wonder, really, why that’s so.

If you’ve not made soup for awhile, start with EVERYDAY-TO-ELEGANT ASPARAGUS SOUP, one version for comfort food on a weeknight, the other to impress friends on the weekend.

Homemade Crème Fraîche

Velvet-textured crème fraîche (pronounced krem-fresh) is easy to make at home! Simply stir two tablespoons of buttermilk into a cup of cream. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 8 – 24 hours or until it thickens. Unlike cream, crème fraîche can be boiled without curdling.

ALANNA's TIPS This is a good use for fat spears of asparagus. When asparagus is plentiful, make a double batch, one for the freezer. If you’re in a rush, pre-heat the chicken broth in the microwave.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite soup recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

EVERYDAY-TO-ELEGANT
ASPARAGUS SOUP

Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 45 minutes
Makes 5 cups
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (for Elegant: 3 tablespoons)
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 2-1/2 pounds asparagus
  • 5 cups chicken broth or Homemade Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 cup non-fat yogurt or buttermilk (Elegant: crème fraîche or cream)
  • Balsamic vinegar (don't skip)

Melt butter over medium high in a large pot or Dutch oven. Meanwhile, chop onion and celery, add to butter and sauté until golden, stirring often.

Meanwhile, cut off and discard woody ends from asparagus; cut remaining spears in one-inch lengths. (For Elegant: Cut off top inch or so of each spear. Separately, steam until almost cooked and reserve for garnish.) Add asparagus and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken broth, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer about 20 minutes or until asparagus is soft.

Remove from heat and purée with an immersion blender or, in batches, in a blender. (For Elegant: Purée, then press through a strainer.) If making ahead of time, stop here and refrigerate or freeze. Before serving, reheat and continue.

Stir in yogurt or buttermilk. (For Elegant: stir in crème fraîche or cream.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with a splash of vinegar. (For Elegant: Top bowls with steamed tips, then a dollop of crème fraîche or a swirl of cream.)

NUTRITION ESTIMATE EVERYDAY Per Cup: 110 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 17g Carb; 5g Fiber; 929mg Sodium; 7mg Cholesterol; 5g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 2, PointsPlus 3 This recipe has been 'Alanna-sized' with reductions in fat and portion size and increases in fiber- and nutrient-rich vegetables.

LATER NOTES
Frugal cooks know that one good way to save money on groceries is to use every last bit of the food we buy, never wasting a thing. For the past few weeks, I've been paying attention to the 'real cost' of vegetables, measuring what's edible, what goes to waste. (Okay, I know that composting would prevent waste entirely. But I'm not there yet and suspect that others aren't either.) Much to my surprise, asparagus are one of the most wasteful vegetables: by snapping off the woody ends, we throw away 40-50% of the spears. This means that if we're paying $2 or $3 or even $4 for a pound of asparagus, our 'real cost' is far higher than apparent. But then I saw a tip about using the woody ends for making asparagus soup. So I saved the ends from three big bunches of asparagus and made soup. Voila! Very little waste! Now I wouldn't serve this to guests, it's 'very rustic' and can be a little bit fibrous, depending on the asparagus. But it is a technique to try, see if it works for you.
For a very spare and simple soup, skip the yogurt, crème fraîche or cream entirely.
Don't skip the balsamic vinegar, somehow it's the perfect contrast for the earthy asparagus.
I'm always disappointed when asparagus soup turns out a pale, drab green versus the bright asparagus green of the quick-cooked spears. To bring back some of the green, drop in a handful of fresh spinach leaves to cook for just a minute or two before puréeing.

More Recipes for Spring Asparagus

(hover for description, click for a recipe)
Asparagus Whole Wheat Bread Pudding Roasted Salmon & Asparagus Asparagus Custard Tart

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You have spring asparagus? I'm moving there! We still have mountains of dirty old snow (even though it's 70 and sunny today, finally)...

4/20/2007
 
Great recipe AGAIN ... although I am not that crazy about using chicken stock as for some reason the purchased stuff tastes odd to me. As far as the waste part, I agree. At times I cringe when I see the waste of veggies in cooking by some people. My mom didn't waste anything whether it was veggies or meat and she had tons from the garden ...

I saw Barefoot Contessa use asparagus that I would pass by, saying it had more flavour and she peeled the stalk with a peeler.
 
Cream will never curdle when boiled, unless the cream has already soured. I've added heavy cream to asparagus soup and the taste is fabulous.
 
Alanna,
I make asparagus soup at the end of the season after saving the woody ends from previous asparagus repasts in the freeezer. The ends make a great stock.
 
I have seen so many recipes say to break the stems off there it snaps easily. but it seems to snap any ware easily to me, so I usually just cut about 1/4 of the bottom.
 
I made this for lunch today (since Jeff and the kids are confirmed asparagus haters!) Seriously yummy! Thanks so much for sharing this one. My waistline thanks you too. Btw, it was really delicious with a hunk of Companion's Farm Bread dunked in it. Maybe I'm too much of a peasant for elegant after all.
 
a samll tip when using the woody ends of the asparagus--do not use an immersion blender, as the stringy ends bind up the blade. Instead, use a potato masher, or berry masher, and strain the whole batch through a sieve into another pot in which you have done the onions and the celery--if used.
 
I love asparagus soup! Great site you have. I am adding you to my blogroll. Would you be interested in exchanging links?
 
Just made this (minus celery and balsamic vinegar—didn't have any) for my sick boyfriend. He loved it! I'd never made soup before, and your recipe was simple to follow. Thanks.
 
Sonia ~ Lucky boyfriend, getting hot soup to help him feel better. But lucky lucky LUCKY you, discovering how easy it is to make soup. I hope your success inspires many many more pots!
 
I just found this recipe. I'm confused. The recipe says to cut off the woody ends of the asparagus and use the tops. Later in the article, you talk about using the woody ends in soup.

I live in North Dakota and a good soup is wonderful when it's cold outside. I love asparagus and look forward to making this soup once my asparagus starts growing next spring. Can I use the woody ends or should I use the tops?

I just signed up to get your recipes emailed to me. I'm looking forward to those messages. Thanks for posting great recipes. Beth
 
Beth ~ Hi, great question, so sorry for the confusion. The answer is that when I first published the column, I stuck to the way I'd made the soup for several years, using just the tips. But then later, I realized how much waste there is when we throw away the woody ends and wondered if I could make soup with them. I could! So, as these things go, the recipe evolved over time, it's not stuck in time.
The recipes on Kitchen Parade are ones I cook again and again so I often continue to play with them, adding more fiber, experimenting with whole grain flours, removing fat, switching to new spice profiles, etc. And so when I do, I add the notes so that others may benefit. I hope this helps!
 
I loved your Easy to Elegant Asparagus soup. I chose it because I had been saving the woody ends of the asparagus. My husband had it with a dollop of sour cream, I had it without and we were both delighted. I used leftover chicken broth from a soup I had made earlier in the week. I love food-saving recipes, but they are rarely as tasty as this one.
 
Instead of blending the woody ends, you could boil them in your chicken stock for 15 minutes before adding it to the other ingredients. Adds the flavor but omits the "rustic" texture. :)
 
I wanted to add that I made this and it is INCREDIBLE. I couldn't believe how good it was after blending; no salt, pepper, yogurt or balsamic - those, of course, just made it more delicious. My first time making asparagus soup and I found the perfect recipe, thank you!
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna