Why This Recipe Works
- Yogurt adds both a touch of dairy richness and good acidity.
- This recipe can be made with either fat or thin asparagus stalks, making this even easier to shop for.
! recently decided that I should try to be even nicer to my wife. She is, after all, the reason I married her. There are few vegetables my wife loves more than asparagus, and few things period that she loves more than soup. A good asparagus soup is worth at least a few dozen extra marriage points that I plan to redeem for goods and services at a future date.
All vegetables vary in quality and flavor with both the season and the distance traveled after harvesting (or more accurately, with the time between harvest and consumption). With some—say, carrots or zucchini—the change is not dramatic. I personally have a hard time telling the difference between a zuke grown in Mexico during the winter versus one that comes straight out of my own garden in the summer. Others, on the other hand, vary quite dramatically. Tomatoes. Corn. And yes, asparagus.
Now's the time of year that asparagus is at its absolute sweet and tender best around here, and I'm hoping to demonstrate the crazy versatility of spring's finest produce. (It'll also hopefully get my wife to be a bit more cheerful about waking up early to walk the dogs.)
The key to truly fantastic asparagus soup is the same as the key to truly fantastic grilled asparagus or braised asparagus or blanched asparagus or sauteed asparagus: start with truly fantastic asparagus. How do you do this? Well, start by heading to either a really good supermarket or grocery store, or better yet, your farmer's market.
See, asparagus fresh out of the ground is sweet and tender, but it very rapidly loses quality as its natural sugar convert into starches. That Peruvian asparagus you get in the mid-winter that's spent a few days on a refrigerated truck and a few more in a central distribution warehouse? That's only a pale imitation, a shadow of what real asparagus should be. Sure, it looks the way it should—tightly closed budding tips and firm, crisp stalks—but looks aren't everything.
"check the rubber band wrapped around the bundles, which indicates place of origin."
When you buy your asparagus, do one of two things: talk to the person selling it to you to see where it came from (the right answer is "from the ground this morning"), or if there's nobody there, check the rubber band wrapped around the bundles, which indicates place of origin. If it says "Peru" or "Mexico" and you're shopping for your asparagus in May, leave it on the shelf and move along.
(Should you snap stalks or cut them? Does size matter? Does asparagus need to be peeled? How the heck do I store this giant grass anyway? For more tips on buying, storing, and cooking asparagus, see my guide.)
When you're making soup, it doesn't really matter if your stalks are thin and tender or thick and meaty—they're all going to get the same fate in the end anyway—so buy whatever looks the best. I like to keep my soup ultra simple and pure in flavor. I blanch my asparagus in a big pot of boiling water just until it's tender, then I puree it along with a big handful of sauteed ramps. In this case, I happened to have a bunch of ramps that my sister had sent me from her backyard in upstate New york (she very thoughtfully picked only the leaves, leaving the bulbs in the ground so that they could live to grow another season).
I could have simply blanched the ramps along with the asparagus, but I love the flavor of ramps sautéed in butter, and it adds an extra dimension to the finished soup.
I'm a butter fiend at heart, but I've recently been going through a serious extra-virgin olive oil phase, particularly the bright, grassy flavored ones. My current favorite is one pressed from Arbequina olives in Extremadura, Spain. It has a lightness and intense green aroma that screams spring to me and goes exceptionally well with the asparagus and ramps. (If you live in New York, you can get bottles of it at Fairway.)
As for the rest of the liquid, I like to use yogurt which adds both a touch of dairy richness, but more importantly some good acidity (which I supplement with some lemon juice).
Just like asparagus, this is a soup best eaten when it is first made. It'll have the brightest flavor and color within the first couple hours of blending. Indeed, leave it in the fridge overnight and you'll see a drastic change from bright emerald green to a drab olive.
Asparagus and Ramp Soup With Yogurt
A verdant soup made from two of the best vegetables springtime has to offer.
2 pounds asparagus stalks, fibrous root end trimmed
1 pound trimmed ramps, divided (see note)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped mint
Cut the top inch off of each asparagus stalk. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Have a large ice bath ready. Add asparagus tips and cook until bright green and tender, about 1 minute. Transfer to ice bath until chilled. Dry carefully and reserve. Add asparagus stalks to water and cook until bright green and tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to ice bath to chill. Transfer chilled stalks to jar of a blender.
Set aside 8 ramps (if using scallions, set aside 2 whole sliced scallions). Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add remaining ramps and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring and tossing frequently, until tender and lightly browned. Transfer to blender jar. Add broth and yogurt to blender. Blend on high speed until completely smooth, stopping to scrape down sides and adding water as necessary until rich, soupy consistency is reached.
With blender running, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then strain through a fine mesh strainer if smoother texture is desired.
Transfer to a medium saucepan and heat, stirring frequently. When ready to serve, stir in lemon juice. Melt remaining butter in a large skillet. Sautée ramps and asparagus tips until lightly browned then transfer to a plate. Ladle soup into individual bowl. Garnish with sauteed ramps, asparagus, chopped mint, and an extra drizzle of olive oil (be generous). Serve immediately.
If ramps are unavailable, substitute with 1 clove garlic and 1 bunch sliced scallions.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 14g||18%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||21%|
|Total Carbohydrate 17g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||18%|
|Total Sugars 8g|
|Vitamin C 27mg||136%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|