You’re probably thinking that “frugal” and “asparagus” do not belong in the same phrase. Freshly harvested local asparagus is available only for a few weeks and, even if you harvest it yourself, it’s relatively costly but completely worthwhile. Being a frugal sort (must be the Scot in me), I stretch it as far as I can. At first, we indulge ourselves in the simplest preparation (spears along with a little olive oil and salt) and later move to combinations (lemony asparagus coins with tiny pasta) and finally to soup.
Soup comes at the end only because I stockpile the snapped-off ends and the occasional peelings and turn them into a rich asparagus broth. I also salvage the cooking liquid and re-use it for the next cooking session within a week, creating a progressively potent solution that becomes the base of the soup. This means I can use less asparagus and still maximize the flavor. For this version, I used leeks rather than onions to keep asparagus in the forefront, and added a potato for a creamy texture rather than adding dairy. I also added a handful of spinach leaves at the end to give make the soup greener. Garnished with radish and turnip flowers, this soup is as delightful to look at as it is healthy and delicious to eat.
About 3/4 lb asparagus
About 4 c asparagus broth (or use water or chicken broth)
1 leek, cleaned, quartered lengthwise and sliced (white and pale green sections only)
1 tbsp butter
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into chunks
Handful of spinach or parsley leaves
Salt and pepper
Garnish: flowers from bolting vegetables such as radishes or turnips
Rinse the asparagus to loosen any sand or grit and snap off the tough ends. Peel the lower portion if woody. Take 2-3 spears and cut the tips off and slice the stalks into small coins. These are for the garnish. Cut the rest of the stalks into 1-inch pieces.
Bring the asparagus broth to a boil in a medium-large saucepan, add the snapped-off ends and peelings, if any, and simmer until the asparagus is tender. Remove the asparagus pieces and discard them. Parboil the reserved asparagus tips and coins until just tender. Remove and set aside to cool.
In a large saute pan, melt the butter and add the leeks, cooking slowly over low heat until tender. Add the cubed potato and asparagus and cook for a few minutes until slightly softened. Add to the asparagus broth, bring to a boil and lower the heat to simmer until the vegetables are tender and falling apart., about 15 minutes. Add the spinach or parsley. Remove from the heat and puree in a food processor or use an immersion blender. Adjust for salt and pepper.
Serve medium hot, garnished with the reserved asparagus tips and coins and a sprinkling of edible flowers or snipped herbs such as tarragon, parsley or lovage.
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