“A Pinch of That, Sprinkle of This, Measure to Taste” Cream of Asparagus Soup

Cream of Asparagus soup picture

I’m always so excited to see the first signs of asparagus peeking through the soil announcing spring. The alarm for fresh produce has rung, and I look forward to the season of delicious farm fresh food!

“A pinch of that, sprinkle of this, measure to taste”, is the characteristic of a great chef and a great recipe.  As you learn to cook and experience flavors, you don’t always have to follow a recipe to a T, but merely a list of ingredients to guide the way.

I enjoy trying new recipes as I learn to cook with my produce on the farm.  I had some cream of asparagus soup at a Grange membership dinner and asked the cook for the recipe.  Of course, like many family recipes, the ingredients were not measured and the directions were not written down.  She sent me her list and my recipe was adapted from that.

In our house, we like soup to be full or heavy.  I opted to partially blend half of this recipe, leaving behind delicious bits of asparagus and potato.  I also added cream instead of milk and chicken broth for some extra flavor.  But, as I encourage everyone to make a recipe your own, feel free to add a pinch of that, sprinkle of this, and measure to taste!

Cream of Asparagus Soup Recipe

  • 1½ – 2 lbs asparagus
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 large potato, chopped
  • 1/4 Cup onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste (I used 3/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper)
  • 4 Cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 Cup heavy cream
  • *1/4 Cup Asiago/Parmesan/Romano cheese blend to sprinkle on top of soup

Wash asparagus and break the end pieces off of the spears.  The asparagus will naturally break at the tender area leaving the woody ends to discard.  Chop spears into 1 inch pieces, along with chopping the potato, onion, and garlic.

Saute garlic, onion, potato and asparagus in butter for about 5-7 minutes, or until potatoes and onions are lightly browned.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Stir in broth and heavy cream, then bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes until the asparagus pieces are tender.

Helpful kitchen tip:  Tasting is an important part of cooking.  At this point, taste your broth and see if you’d like to adjust your seasoning.  You can add more salt, pepper, or thyme would be a complimentary ingredient.  If the soup is overpowered by any one ingredient, you can always add more chicken broth to lessen the intensity if you over seasoned.

Using an immersion blender, partially blend half of the soup.  If you prefer a creamy soup with no vegetable pieces, blend the entire pot of soup.  Top with a sprinkle of cheese before serving and enjoy!

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Cooking with Chef Natalie – Bacon Wrapped Asparagus and Creamy Baked Asparagus

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Meals are an experience at our household, whether you’re hands on in the kitchen while the festivities begin, enjoying a glass of wine while we stir up some fun, or awed by the serenade of cuisine set at the dinner table.  Tastes, smells, and sites to be seen as your senses dance with excitement.

I enjoy cooking and nothing makes me happier than seeing the fresh produce I’ve grown on my farm turned into delicious recipes for everyone to enjoy!  Early spring asparagus is so exquisite I normally take a simplistic approach to recipes not to overshadow the fresh flavor.  I invited Chef Natalie to my kitchen to prepare two asparagus recipe’s to accompany our dinner.

cooking with Natalie 01Natalie cooking 04 edited blanching asparagus 02

You should always use the best ingredients that are made available to you and that fits your budget.  It’s a simple tip but one that makes a huge difference.  We used fresh thick cut bacon from our neighbors farm to flavor and accompany our home-grown asparagus.

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

  • 1 1/2 lbs. Fresh asparagus spears
  • 5 – 8 Pieces of fresh-cut bacon
  • 2 T Olive oil
  • * Black pepper to taste

Clean the asparagus and break off the end pieces.  The stem will naturally break at the tender spots and you can discard the end pieces for compost or use to flavor soups.  Lightly brush the asparagus with olive oil and pepper to taste.  Spiral wrap 2 – 3 pieces of asparagus with bacon.  You can secure the pieces with a tooth pick before grilling if needed.  Place the asparagus on the grill and cook until bacon is crisp and spears are tender.

grilled asparagus IMG_3187 FullSizeRender[2] Creamy baked asparagus

Creamy Baked Asparagus

  • 1 lb.  Fresh asparagus spears
  • 1/4 Cup  Peppercorn Ranch Dressing
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Smoked Gouda Cheese
  • 12 Ritz Crackers, coarsely crushed (about 1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Clean asparagus spears, remove ends, and blanch in water for 2 -3 minutes.  The asparagus should be bright green and still crisp.  Drain and place in a baking dish.  Add dressing and toss to coat, then sprinkle crushed crackers and top with smoked gouda cheese.  You can substitute the gouda for parmesan or cheddar cheese if you have that on hand, but trust me the gouda is good.  Bake in the oven for 10 – 12 minutes until  the top is lightly golden and crisped.  This recipe was modified from the original on KraftFoods.com.

» If you’d like to grow your own, check out my recent “How To” post on Planting Asparagus!

Planting Asparagus

Asparagus spears peeking through the earth are one of the first signs that spring is here! A farm favorite, and an early perennial, it is the gift that keeps on giving.

When we purchased the farm in early spring of 2013 we were lucky to have a few surprise plants, still left by the garden, to get us by until our new plants were established and well on their way. Once planted, and if cared for, asparagus plants will produce for 15-20 years.

planting asparagus

Selection
It is important to choose asparagus crowns that are from a reputable distributor or trusted local producer. Invest in healthy plants and you’ll be rewarded for years to come. Asparagus plants take 2-3 seasons before full production but 2-3 year old crowns are available to purchase if you are eager to get a head start. I have had success with planting both younger crowns and 2-3 year old crowns.

I purchased my crowns through Nourse Farms. The varieties we chose were Jersey Night, Mary Washington, and Purple Passion. When selecting your asparagus choose varieties that are well suited for your area. Online information is plentiful depending on which zone you live in or you can check with your local extension office.

Soil Location and Preparation
Select a location that has good drainage and plenty of sunlight. Asparagus prefers a pH range of 6.5 -7.5. You can amend the soil by applying lime if too acidic or sulfur if the soil is too alkaline. Prepare the soil by removing any weeds, as asparagus does not do well when competing. I suggest mulching to keep the weeds at bay.

Planting
When you receive your crowns make sure to keep asparagus roots dry and do not soak them. The sooner you can plant them the better, but remember it is springtime and Mother Nature does not always cooperate. Store the crowns in a cool dark place like a basement, root cellar, or garage until you are able to plant.

planting asparagus placing asparagus in trench asparagus crowns in trench

When you are ready to plant furrow 8” – 10” and spread compost in the bottom of the trench. Separate the asparagus roots like a mustache, spacing 10” – 12” apart, with the crown facing upwards. Make sure the roots have plenty of room to spread out and flourish. Cover the crown with 2” – 4” of soil. As the asparagus plant grows you will continue to add earth to the trench until it is filled, allowing the fern to stay above the soil. The ferns will dry and wither as fall approaches and after winter you will cut back and discard. If all goes well you will be able to harvest that spring and the following season you can enjoy the full abundance of your asparagus.

Next week I will be cooking with Chef Natalie to share a delicious recipe with asparagus, fresh from the farm and straight to your inbox!