Tag Archives: asparagus

Creamy Pea and Asparagus Soup with Parmesan-Thyme Shortbread

Goodbye winter. Hello springtime.

Which, sadly, means the end of this season’s soup club.

Surprisingly, it actually feels like springtime. Sunshine and warm weather, although I’ve yet to spy any pretty spring color. I would revel in it more, except I’ve sprained my ribs in a tumble that I took on the ice just last week and have been hobbling around and hunched over like a 90 year old woman. At least I had this creamy pea and asparagus soup to comfort me.

I volunteered to bring in the vegetarian soup offering for this final week of soup club, in the place of an out-of-town coworker. Desperate to part ways with heavy root vegetables, but not quite willing to transition into a chilled soup, I scoured my favorite cookbooks, magazines and websites hoping to find something that would suit my mood. When I chanced upon this creamy pea and aspragus soup with parmesan-thyme shortbread from Food and Wine, I knew I had found my match.

I like most everything about this soup. The smell of asparagus. The sweetness of the peas. The green-ness. The delicacy of the tarragon. The cheesy-saltiness of the shortbread.

I especially love this soup because I could test out the newest addition to my kitchen arsenal, an immersion blender (and a completely unexpected birthday present). I was first introduced to the immersion blender just a few months ago when I was making this soup at a cooking class. I had high hopes for it, as this particular kitchen instrument has been talked up a lot amongst my friends. It was … eh … okay. A remarkable amount of work to blend it all together, all the while standing over a hot flame.

But then a lovely little (green!) hand blender arrived on my doorstep, with a note pleading me to reconsider my stance on immersion blenders. How could I resist? And now I must eat my previous words, because this blended up my soup like a charm. It was delightfully intoxicating to use. So, thank you Jenny, you know me well.

Creamy Pea and Asparagus Soup with Parmesan-Thyme Shortbread

slightly adapted from Food and Wine
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Creamy Pea and Asparagus Soup
3 tablespoons butter
2 small onions, thinly sliced
2 1/2 pounds (2 large bunches) asparagus, cut in 1 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups vegetable broth
2 ounces (~1/3 cup) tarragon leaves
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups frozen baby peas
splash of white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
 
Parmesan-Thyme Shortbread
1 1/2 cups (180 g) flour
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan
1 teaspoon dried thyme
zest from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened
2 egg yolks
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For the soup:

Heat butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add asparagus, cook one minute longer. Add vegetable broth, cover and cook until aspragus is tender, about 15 minutes. Add tarragon leaves and blend until very smooth (me: with my new immersion blender or in a standing blender, worked in batches). Stir in heavy cream and peas. Season with white wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

For the shortbread:

In a large bowl, combine flour, parmesan, dried thyme, salt and lemon zest. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachement add the butter (cut into tablespoon-sized pieces) and the egg yolks and mix until a moist crumb forms. Gather dough and knead a few times, while rolling into a 2-inch log. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Cut log into 1/4-inch slices and bake at 325º for 25 minutes.

To market, to market

I woke up early this morning.

Like 7:30 am. On a Saturday.

I don’t even wake up that early during the week (the life of an academic).

Why?

I was on a mission. I went to a farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago and was deeply disappointed by the lack of produce available. (I don’t know why I was surprised – we have had like the worst winter in Minnesota ever). But still, how can you have a farmer’s market with no produce? So this week I vowed that I would check out the selection right as the market opened, at 8:00 am.

I drug myself out of bed and onto my bike and worked my way to the Minneapolis Midtown Farmers Market. And tried not to be too hopeful about the promise of asparagus and rhubarb that their website offered.

First I found some coffee.

Then … produce success!

I scored some rhubarb, asparagus and spring onions. Now, I wouldn’t say there was a plethora of produce and some vendors only could offer canned versions of last year’s harvest.

But, it is a promising start to the season.

Now, what to make with my treasures?

Stay tuned…

A girl can dream, can’t she?

I am not going to lie. I spent most of my weekend in Florida dreaming of leaving science and opening a restaurant. I think it is my backup plan if the next couple of years don’t go so well on the academic front. There are a number of reasons for this.

1) I spend a lot of time thinking about food (as you probably can tell)

2) The food in Gainesville (and I would wager most of Northern Florida) pretty much sucks.

This is what I am thinking. A small little place that serves mostly breakfast-brunch-lunch type foods (because those are my favorite things to make). Three soups daily, a variety of salads, the odd pasta dish and all things breakfast (served all day). And let’s through in some fantastic coffee and baked goods. Just because. It would be small, bright and fresh. I think I have a decent eye for design and want create a space that is warm, inviting and cozy. There would be a backyard patio and garden with flowers everywhere. Something that screams springtime all year round.

Oh yeah, and I would put this quiche on the menu.

Asparagus Parmesan Quiche. It also screams springtime.

 

Asparagus Parmesan Quiche

The crust: makes one 9-inch crust

Note – this was my first time making pie crust in my mini-food processor and I am a convert. So freaking easy!

Measure 1 1/2 cups flour into the food processor.

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 tablespoon of sugar

Now for the beauty of the food processor –

cut in 8 tablespoons of cold butter

 

Add 4-5 tablespoons of cold water and pulse until dough comes together

 

Roll it out into a roughly circular shape – I totally eyeballed this.

 

and transfer it to a pie pan, beautifying the edges and poking holes on the bottom.

 

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

 

The filling

Take some good stuff, in this case, baby asparagus, shallots and pancetta

 

Boil the asparagus for about 5 minutes.

Saute the shallots and pancetta until cooked through.

 

While the good stuff is cooking, whisk together:

3/4 cup half and half

 

3 eggs

 

1 1/2 teaspoons tarragon

 

3/4 cup parmesan cheese

 

To the baked pie crust, add:

pancetta-onion mixture

 

Pour the egg-cream-cheese mixture over the top.

 

Arrange the asparagus nicely (or not so nicely..)

 

And bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.

 

Completely restaurant-worthy.

 

Although, I do have a few holes in my back-up plan. Like no actual restaurant experience – not even as a teenager working in the fast food industry. Or money to invest. Or any business experience. And perhaps most importantly, no name for said dream restaurant.

Guess there are still a few things to work out beyond just the menu…