"Creamy" Asparagus Soup

Spring is upon us! The abundance of asparagus in the stores signals that the long winter is coming to an end. I love asparagus! My first memory of this delicious vegetable is as a young child, 3-4 years old, foraging with my family for the wild asparagus that grew abundant in our area. We would walk the meadow, hunting the tender green spears that pushed up among the grass. I remember eating the young spears raw, something I still love to this day.

Asparagus is packed with vitamins A and C, potassium, and iron. It's a versatile vegetable, great steamed, raw in a salad, or in a soup such as this.

 This past weekend, I did a cooking demonstration for Le Creuset at Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets in New York.  When customers asked about what I was making, I explained that it was a "Creamy Asparagus Soup that is dairy and gluten-free, and vegan the way that I am preparing it here." One woman told me, "I don't care about dairy. I don't care about gluten. I just care that it tastes good!" When she tasted it, she was sold. People went CRAZY for this soup. KIDS kept coming back for more. It was a winner!

Soup makes a fantastic start to a meal, or can be served as a meal on its own, but soup can be a nutritional landmine, loaded with hidden calories and potential dietary problems such as gluten, dairy, and simple carbs. This soup is dairy-free, gluten-free, and can be easily made vegan depending on the broth you select.

Creamy Asparagus Soup is based on a German classic. I've removed the dairy by using a "cream" base made of cannellini beans, olive oil and a small amount of potato. This method can be used for most cream soups to make them healthier and dairy free. It is also fantastic made with tea instead of broth, further boosting the nutritional power pack of this soup with additional antioxidants. Try a good quality roasted green tea or an organic mint tea as a base. When I prepared the soup for the demonstration, I used a roasted green tea. It turned out great! It’s easy and adds another level of subtle flavors.

Give this soup a try. The mild flavor and silky texture will make it a family favorite. And best of all, it's packed with nutrition.

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4-6)

  •  2 pounds green asparagus
  • 1 large leek (or 1 large onion)
  • 4 cups broth of choice (or tea)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) cannellini beans
  • 1/2 small or 1/4 medium russet potato
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and Pepper

METHOD

  1. Remove the lower white and light green portion of the leek. Cut in half lengthwise and wash well in cold water, making sure to get between each section. Chop roughly and set aside. Wash asparagus and break of the woody tip. Remove heads and reserve for garnish. Chop the remaining stalks.
  2. Wash a peel the potato. Cut into 1-inch chunks and Add to a small saucepan with 2 cups cold water and a couple pinches of salt. Bring to a boil and add the asparagus heads. Blanch the asparagus for 30 seconds, then remove and submerge in cold water to stop the cooking process. Continue to cook the potato until fork tender, then remove from heat.
  3. Heat a 5 1/2 quart pot over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped leek and sauté over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped asparagus and continue to sauté for another 5-7 minutes until bright green and just starting to soften. 
  4. Add broth of choice to leeks and asparagus. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and simmer until asparagus is tender all the way through, about 5 minutes.
  5. For the cream base, drain and rinse the cannellini beans. Add the rinsed beans to a blender bowl or food processor, along with the cooked potato, 1/4 cup of the potato water, the remaining extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth and creamy and set aside.
  6. Transfer leek and asparagus mixture to a blender bowl and puree CAREFULLY! It’s best to hold a dishtowel over the top of the blender to prevent the top from coming off.
  7. Strain the pureed soup base through a mesh strainer, back into the original pot, using a label or spoon to push it through. Discard the fibrous remains.
  8. Add the cream base and stir to combine. Add fresh lemon juice a little at a time to desired taste.
  9. Salt to taste and garnish with blanched asparagus heads. Enjoy!