Here is a pretty, pale green spring soup, easy to make for a casual meal but elegant enough to serve to guests.
Recipes for pureed vegetable soups are among the most forgiving. Because the ingredients need to be soft, there is little risk of overcooking. Most recipes follow the same basic method: onions or other aromatics (in this case, leeks) are cooked, the main vegetable is added, then all the ingredients are covered with liquid and simmered until the vegetable is tender enough to be blended. The liquid in this case can be a light chicken or vegetable stock, or water.
The addition of cream is optional, but it takes the soup from good to great. I served it with some crumbled goat cheese and with croutons that I made by frying pieces of fresh bread in butter. Delicious.
Look to the Loire Valley for a crisp, sauvignon-based white to drink with this.
Creamy Asparagus and Leek Soup
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 leeks, white and pale green parts only, washed thoroughly and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pounds (1 kg) asparagus, cut into ½-inch pieces (snap off woody ends first)
4 cups (1 l) light chicken or vegetable stock, or water
½ cup (125 ml/120 g) heavy cream or crème fraîche
salt and freshly ground pepper
croutons and crumbled goat cheese to garnish (if desired)
1. In a heavy four-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are very soft, about 10 minutes. You don’t want the leeks to color, so turn down the heat if they start to brown.
2. Add the asparagus to the pan, add a bit more salt, then pour in the stock or water. Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover and cook until the asparagus is very soft, 20–30 minutes, depending on its thickness.
3. Let the soup cool slightly, then puree it, one small batch at a time, in a blender until very smooth. As always, be very careful when blending hot liquids (I avoid the risk by using a handheld immersion blender).
4. Return the soup to the pan and stir in the cream or crème fraîche. Taste and season generously with salt and pepper. Gently reheat the soup if necessary, then serve in warm bowls, topped with the croutons and goat cheese if using.
Garnish the soup with asparagus tips that have been briefly cooked in boiling salted water. Herbs like tarragon and chervil make a nice addition. To make the soup into a meal, serve a poached egg in each bowl.