asparagus soup

Asparagus makes a light and lovely pureed soup for spring.

Rich but light? Creamy but not heavy with calories? Can such opposites be reconciled in one dish? It is possible, and not even difficult. “Cream” soups made with low-fat milk, a touch of butter and bit of flour can still have the luscious silky “mouthfeel” that makes a creamy soup especially satisfying – but without the heaviness you regret later.

Asparagus is what made me want to explore this happy meeting of opposites recently. Or, to be more precise, asparagus I’d badly overcooked. I didn’t want to waste it, so making it into a pureed soup was a logical next step.

Most vegetable based pureed soups are creamy, and thus not the healthiest of options (especially in spring, when heavy, fatty soups seem less appealing). But that reliable friend of healthy alternatives, Cooking Light, has a version that provides a lovely compromise. Leeks or carrots work, too, but I’ve only just used up the forlornly mushy asparagus and haven’t tried the other versions.

I loosely followed the Cooking Light recipe below (linked here), and came up with a delicious, delightfully easy soup. Searching in vain for nutmeg, I substituted allspice. I used dried thyme instead of fresh (accidentally – it still wasn’t my most careful cooking day). And the milk I had was 2% instead of 1%. Given that I was so off in my cooking that day, the success of the soup proves anyone can do it, easily.

Cream of Asparagus Soup
3 cups (1/2-inch) sliced asparagus (about 1 pound)
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, divided
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups 1% low-fat milk
Dash of ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Combine asparagus, broth, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, bay leaf, and garlic in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
Place asparagus mixture in a blender; process until smooth. (I used an immersion blender, which makes it even easier.)
Place flour in pan. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk until blended.
Add puréed asparagus and ground nutmeg; stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat, and stir in 1/4 teaspoon thyme, butter, salt, and lemon rind.

Variations:
Cream of Carrot Soup: Substitute 2 cups baby carrots for asparagus. Omit bay leaf. Yield 4 servings (serving size: 1 cup).
Cream of Leek Soup: Substitute 3 cups sliced leek for asparagus. Substitute 3/4 teaspoon rosemary for thyme. Omit bay leaf.

For a less creamy asparagus soup experience, try the recipe Higgins restaurant’s Greg Higgins shared with Edible Portland magazine. His Potato, Morel and Asparagus Soup uses a miso broth as its base and pureed potato to add the creamy texture; the asparagus (joined by kale) floats in one-inch chunks. Here’s the link.