Recipe: Chilled Asparagus and Spring Onion Soup with Crème Fraîche

The heart of spring is a celebratory time for passionate cooks, but it does present a bit of a challenge — namely, an unspoken desire to distill the flavor of the season down into one dish, if it is even possible. This soup is an attempt to fulfill that desire.

It’s served chilled, perfect for those warm days when friends and family are out on the patio enjoying the weather and perhaps a little barbecue, to emphasize the clean, fresh flavor of the asparagus and distinctive sweetness of the spring onion. A little crème fraîche stirred into the soup just before serving rounds out the flavors with a little acidity and richness, and pine nuts add a pleasant contrast in texture — adding a little crunch to puréed soups never hurts, after all.

When purchasing the asparagus for this recipe, try to choose bunches with stalks of similar size, both in length and thickness, so that they cook at the same rate. Thin ones are preferable, as they will roast more quickly and get dinner on the table sooner, of course.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs asparagus
  • 1 ½ qts cold water
  • ½ white onion
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 5 spring onions, green parts chopped, bulbs left whole
  • ¾ c parsley stems
  • 2 T canola oil
  • ½ t sea salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ c crème fraîche
  • ¼ c pine nuts

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Grasp 1 stalk asparagus on each end, and gently bend until it snaps. Use this as a guideline for trimming the rest of the bunch. Line up the rest of the asparagus, and trim at the same point.
  3. Place the woody stems in a medium pot, and add the water, onion, carrot, celery, spring onion greens, and parsley stems. Place over high heat, and just before it boils, reduce the heat to a simmer.
  4. Meanwhile, place the asparagus and spring onion bulbs in a large baking dish, and coat with the oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and toss well. Roast in the oven, tossing occasionally, until soft enough to blend and slightly charred in some spots, about 45-50 minutes.
  5. Transfer the roast vegetables to a blender or the bowl of a food processor. (It may be necessary to do this in batches; always leave room for hot liquids to expand.) Using a colander placed over a large bowl, drain the vegetable stock, and use a ladle to press gently on the solids. With the machine running, slowly add the stock until the mixture reaches a soup consistency and the vegetables are blended well. It may not be necessary to use all of the stock; refrigerate any remaining for future use. Season with ½ t salt.
  6. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water. Place another bowl inside, preferably metal, large enough to accommodate the soup. Transfer the soup to the bowl, and let cool. (To cool the soup down more quickly, use the ladle to stir the soup.)
  7. Divide into 4 bowls. Top each with 1 T crème fraiche and 1 T pine nuts.

Serves: 4

All text and photos © 2014 Will Budiaman. All rights reserved.

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