Every year or two, there’s a new version of cold asparagus soup in my kitchen. Recently, when asparagus was on sale for a song (what else is $1.49 a pound these days?), I made it twice in one week and decided it was high time to update the recipe for the summer of 2022. I know soup seems cold weather-ish sort of food, but truly it’s not. If you skip around the blog, you’ll see soup in beaucoup variations because to cook seasonally (or even if you don’t), is to find ingredients just perfect for soups and stews summer, fall, winter, and spring. And occasionally a pot of cold weather bean soup or beef stew calls your name about mid-July when grilling is feeling a tish tiresome or a chilly wind and rain hits town. At that point, you give in and stir up all the warm goodness you can in a great big pot.
I make asparagus soup (hot or cold depending on the month) nearly anytime because we have Fed Ex asparagus January – December. And while asparagus is an early spring favorite vegetable in most areas, it has yet to arrive in full force in Colorado yards, though it also grows wild according to one faithful local reader… My second-year plants are beautifully ferny, but no stalks yet I’m sad to say. Next year in Jerusalem.Jump to Recipe
My own first asparagus soup from 1986, inspired by SILVER PALATE’S, was first on the blog (scroll down), but also ended up in my soup book:
From the original post on the blog... Over the interim years, I’ve made that soup many times in many variations. I’ve switched the veg to broccoli and added parmesan. I’ve made it cold and I’ve made it hot. It’s been in paper bowls and china bowls. It’s been a starter and it’s been a main course. It’s been cooked for invalids and small children who don’t like vegetables, but who will eat this soup. This year, it’s in sweet, tiny cream soup bowls Dave bought me for our 36th wedding anniversary last week; he had to buy them used. (Below @ Margarita at Pine Creek dinner to celebrate!) I’m not sure many china manufacturers make them any more. A gift for someone who loves to make first course soups, something that most people gave up doing before they were born. But I like a soup to start. I like the feeling of seeing that little bowl on the table and thinking, “Something besides salad!” Or, “How warm!” Or, “How fun!” Or, “What will it be??” It’s a smooth and easy start for a meal and can be just as veggie as salad. People feel very special when you make them a first course soup.
And so what would you do with a cold asparagus soup anyway? EAT IT!! You’d have it for dinner with some bread and cheese and watch a movie in the cool basement on a hot night. It could be lunch the next day without turning on the stove. Add a perky chicken salad for a special family lunch. Perhaps you’d pack it up into a thermos for a long drive and a picnic. Ladle it into mugs or small bowls (see above!) for a first course at an outdoor summer dinner party and serve it up with a lovely totally cold Sancerre, which will play nicely with the asparagus, unlike most wines. Spoon some into small paper cups for a healthier starter at the Fourth of July cookout. (Yes, you could!) I occasionally heat it up and poach eggs in it. (See below.) Talk about a healthy breakfast. Have a vegetarian or vegan friend? This will be perfecto, though you’ll need to remember to swap in vegetable broth for the chicken broth and skip the sour cream. Think garlicky croutons and/or sliced green onions for garnishes.
And while this particular soup is perhaps weirdly named “Sour Cream of Asparagus,” you can leave the pot of soup cream-free (it will freeze like that and it won’t freeze with the sour cream without breaking or curdling) and then whisk in the sour cream into each bowl as you serve it–see below. Or even, as you’ll read in the recipe, only dollop in sour cream on top and skim your spoon through the soup adding only a tiny bit of cream at a time to each bite. And, naturally, the sour cream can be skipped all together if you’re not into it. I promise you’ll like the soup with or without when you try this:
Sour Cream of Asparagus Soup with Tarragon
- 1 tablespoon EACH: salted butter and olive oil
- 1 ½ medium yellow onions, chopped coarsely
- 1 shallot, sliced thinly
- 3 medium carrots, trimmed, peeled, and sliced thinly
- 1 stalk celery with leaves, cut into small dice
- 1 fennel bulb, cored and cut into small dice
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 6 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, divided (4 for the pot and 2 for garnish)
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 1 large, plump garlic clove, minced
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 6 cups chicken broth or more as needed to thin soup
- 2 pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed, and chopped into 2-inch pieces (Save trimmings in freezer for stock.)
- 1 cup fresh spinach (to keep the soup green)
- 4 drops hot sauce or to taste
- 2/3 cup sour cream or more to taste
- MELT THE BUTTER in an 8–10-quart soup pot set over medium-high flame and add the onions, shallot, carrots, celery, fennel, parsley and 4 of the tablespoons of fresh tarragon. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Sauté for 10 minutes; add garlic and cook another minute or two. Pour in the white wine and, stirring often, cook until the liquid is nearly evaporated.
- POUR IN THE CHICKEN BROTH, cover, raise heat and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce to a simmer, and simmer 10 -15 minutes or until vegetables are nearly tender. Add asparagus, spinach, and hot sauce; simmer another 10 -15 minutes or until all the vegetables, including the asparagus, are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- PURÉE the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in batches in the food processor or blender (hold a towel down over the blender top). Taste and adjust seasonings again. If soup is too thin, simmer for several minutes to thicken. If too thick, whisk in some water or broth. Chill overnight. Whisk in sour cream. Taste and adjust seasonings one last time.
- SERVE COLD garnished with the reserved tarragon. Alternately, you can skip adding the sour cream to the pot, and instead ladle the soup into bowls or cups, dolloping a little sour cream into each serving and topping with tarragon. Store 3-4 days in the fridge. Do not freeze if you’ve added the sour cream. Otherwise, freeze for 4-6 months.
Definition of Sauté: To sauté is to cook food quickly in a minimal amount of fat over relatively high heat. The word comes from the French verb sauter, which means "to jump," and describes not only how food reacts when placed in a hot pan but also the method of tossing the food in the pan. The term also refers to cooking tender cuts of meat (such as chicken breasts, scaloppine, or filet mignon) in a small amount of fat over moderately high heat without frequent stirring―just flipping it over when one side is browned. (~Cooking Class/Cooking Light)
Grow your own herbs. Lovely to run out and snatch up a few for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Even better to save the bucks at the store. Using fresh herbs is one of the practices that separates really good cooks from merely ok ones. Have a lot and can’t figure out what to do? Chop them up into a green salad and have at a luscious meal. No garden? Pots work fine.
Change it up: As noted, easily switched to Vegetarian/Vegan. Already Gluten-Free. Make it with broccoli instead. Yum. Or carrots. Or zucchini. Switch the herb to basil or mint or use only parsley. The ground is the limit– wink, wink.
Cutting Food Costs/Avoiding Waste for this dish: As always, shop the store sales and use whatever coupons you can. If broccoli is on sale and asparagus isn’t, try broccoli! Save the trimmed ends of asparagus for soup or freeze them to use later for stock or broth. Make your own chicken or vegetable stock or broth. I’m making stock today from a turkey we smoked last weekend. If it seems too smoky, I’ll make bean soup with it. If possible, buy onions and carrots in large quantities at warehouse stores to save cash. If there’s too much, share with a neighbor. Freeze leftovers and have a night off from cooking sometime. If you haven’t done so, invest in a decent collection of storage containers. I like these dishwasher-safe deli containers and they come in at least 3 sizes; the lids fit all 3. P.S. They stack easily in the cupboard.
You’ve got S for Shop the sales and make soup. V for Value–cook for leftovers and E for Every week have one veggie meal. Of course, you’re cooking at home for health, wealth, and happiness, so give yourself a big pat on the back.
Don’t forget to write a menu even if it’s sketchy or you know it will change. Get into the habit of doing it on Sunday evening or Monday morning. This will save you bucks (and angst) and serve as a reminder to take ingredients out of the freezer or put them on your shopping list. Planned leftovers…as in tacos from “leftover” chicken, for instance… help you remember to make the extra chicken and save cooking one night.
LIFE GOES ON:
Our arugula, grown in window boxes, is flowering–time to eat quickly. The flowers are lovely and edible, too. You can eat most herb flowers and while they’re beautiful on food, they may be more strongly flavored than the leaves.
The weather hasn’t cooperated every night, but we’ve spent some evenings sharing dinner on the deck and watching the birds out over the city to the east.
Thanks for keeping me company in the kitchen; it means a lot.
How about some asparagus soup?!