French in a Flash: Creamy Asparagus, Basil, and Crème Fraîche Velouté


[Photograph: Kerry Saretsky]

In the dead of winter, I can feel just that: dead. I let myself eat macaroni and cheese and carrot cake with wild abandon, and though comfort food may feed the soul, it doesn't do much for the body. Sunday night, after a weekend filled with steak and ale pies and bourbon, it was time to reboot.

A velouté is normally a thick sauce, or by association, soup. In French the name means "velvety," describing its thick, creamy, and soft but substantial texture. I find if you simmer sweet shallots, asparagus, and basil in just enough vegetable broth for two and then whiz it up in a blender, you get that same velvety texture that you'll find in much heavier, creamy, decadent soups, with a lot more vitamins and much fewer calories. I add a couple of spoonfuls of crème fraîche for tang and a little more body, but you could go without if you're deeply virtuous.

I may have missed the start of the year to be good, but there's always the start of the week.

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