It was my original intention to make a different asparagus soup – Steve loves asparagus and his sister runs a farm and had fresh asparagus for several weeks, since our spring was so cool and damp – but I never got around to getting some while it was on and I was hungry for some asparagus soup now. So, being the instant gratification lover that I am, I pulled out this recipe and found that I had (most) of the ingredients I needed on hand. Ok, I’ll admit it, I cheated. A little. I don’t think it will scar my children or prevent me from ever serving on a school board, but you never know. Not only did I not have any fresh asparagus, but I can’t stand onions. Leeks either. Anything remotely onionish and I find myself choosing not to eat. (Not that not eating is necessarily a bad thing. I could certainly stand to miss a meal or two.) So this recipe has been ... adapted to fit my personal taste and the ingredients I had on hand. So I’ll give you the actual recipe first and then tell you what I did to cheat. One of these days I really need to make it the way it’s written ... mostly.
Creamed Asparagus Soup
9 tablespoons butter
3 leeks, sliced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
3 pounds fresh asparagus spears, each cut into thirds
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
3 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons pepper
1½ cups chive & onion cream cheese spread
¾ cup milk
Melt butter in medium saucepan on medium heat. Add leeks; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic; cook and stir 2 minutes. Add asparagus, broth and water; stir. Simmer on medium-low heat 5 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Stir in salt and pepper.
Mix cream cheese spread and milk until well blended.
Process asparagus mixture in food processor until smooth. Pour into 4 soup bowls. Add cream cheese mixture; swirl gently with spoon.
Garnish with additional cooked asparagus tips just before serving.
So my first
cheat adaptation: this recipe was actually intended to feed 4. Remember me mentioning that our family of 5 is never satisfied with 4 servings of anything? That meant that I was going to have to make more. So, because I had enough frozen asparagus for 12 servings - almost exactly - I timesed everything by 3. Luckily the math was fairly easy and I didn’t even have to break out my calculator.
Now having a recipe adapted to satisfy my hungry animals, I had to adapt again to the ingredients on hand. Frozen asparagus, remember? (Are you cluing in to the fact that I’m a frozen food kind of girl? I really intend to use more fresh fruits and vegetables in our meals, but I’m easily distracted and fresh things tend to turn into something else altogether by the time I remember to use them.) So I read over the recipe and decided that since most of the boiling/simmering is to cook the asparagus, the onions and the garlic, I could totally skip that part. So I stuck my asparagus in the microwave and put the butter in the pot to melt. And even though I can’t stand onions or anything remotely resembling an onion (although I really like garlic – love the stuff – go figure) I know that they are often necessary as flavoring. Now this may seem totally weird to some of you, but I don’t mind the taste of onions as long as I don’t have to crunch into one or feel their slimy guts slithering around in my mouth. So with this in mind, I added a liberal amount of onion powder (a staple I cannot live without) to my butter. Here's the link for that. Tone's Onion Powder I buy it by the boatload at Sam’s. (This blog seems to be turning into a commercial for Sam’s Club. Wonder what I did before they opened one around here...?) It tastes really nice mixed into the butter and browned a little. Well, not just the onion and butter, but when mixed into whatever it is I’m cooking. And then – vampires beware – I added the garlic to the butter too. Ok, ok, I know the recipe implies fresh garlic, but I just can’t keep it in the house. No, we don’t eat it up immediately. *sigh* It simply turns into some unrecognizable goo in the produce bag in my crisper. So Sam’s Club to the rescue again, with this little beauty. Spice World Minced Garlic “Fresh” garlic whenever I need it and no mincing necessary. Woo hoo!
I’ve digressed again. Where was I? Oh yeah. Asparagus microwaved to “crisp-tender” and “smoothing” in my food processor with about a cup of the 3 cups of water called for. (Steve surprised me with my food processor. Just showed up with it out of nowhere for no apparent reason. And not because he had just discovered the joy of fresh pico de gallo using tomatoes from his sister’s farm. Ok, maybe because he had just discovered the joy of fresh pico, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?) I don’t know if my asparagus needed to be cooked past "crisp-tender", if I needed to add more water and/or the butter, or just why, but my asparagus didn’t “smooth” to my satisfaction. I wanted Campbell’s Tomato Soup smooth. I got little bits of chunky smooth. Ran it for what seemed like a good half hour (but wasn’t) but couldn’t get it any smoother. Maybe next time I’ll try the blender. While that was “smoothing” I dumped the rest of the water and the chicken broth in with the butter – didn’t want my onion powder to get too brown and I did need to heat the broth. I'm thinking of trying a vegetarian version using vegetable broth instead. Oh yeah, I also used a little more chicken broth than was called for. I opened two 14-ish ounce cans which added up to slightly less than 4 cups, so I used the additional broth instead of some of the 3 cups of water. (Did that make sense? It did to me, but I’m hoping I’m not leaving anyone behind. I've been known to do that when I wax eloquent.) I thought the extra flavor might be good, since I cut out the leeks. And the chive and onion cream cheese, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
So I dumped my still-slightly-lumpy smoothed asparagus into the pot and added a little season salt. (Thanks again Sam’s! Morton's Season Salt) Again trying to bump up the flavor a little. I stirred and smelled and tasted a little first in an attempt to figure out what would taste the best and I decided on just plain old season salt. Am I weird or do some of you do this too? Something I’ve done ever since I started cooking – sniff the stuff, sniff my spice, sniff them together until I find the right combo. Then a little shake, a little taste until I think I have it right. Ok, I’m digressing again...
I let the stuff in the pot come to a boil and then simmer while I mixed up the cream cheese and milk (hoping the additional cooking might help my asparagus bits “smooth” a little more). I was willing to try the chive & onion cream cheese, but didn’t have any. I did have some whipped cream cheese, and some ordinary cream cheese. I was going to try melting the ordinary cream cheese in the microwave and then adding the milk, but I ended up just using the whole tub of whipped cream cheese because, a) it was the exact amount I needed (12 ounces) and b) since it was nice and fluffy I thought it would be easy enough to mix it with the milk. Not. I was left with little lumps that no amount of whisking would smooth away. Guess I was destined to have lumpy soup. But hey, the soup was already hot and simmering, so maybe the lumps would melt if I added it. I’m not much for swirling much of anything gently with a spoon into individual bowls anyway. So I turned off the heat and “gently swirled” the mix into my hot soup. Mixed in quite well.
Can you see the lumps? No, that's pepper. No, that's the cream cheese. Yep, there they are, the green bits.
This is how we serve soup to the little guys at my house. Stir ice cube until melted, then taste to see if you need another. Rave reviews from the husband and the oldest, who had it slurped down in no time. Youngest claimed to love it, but I found most of his portion designing my countertop when I went to bed last night. I have to add a little info here about my youngest. He is a grazer and a hoarder of food. Always has been, from the moment he was born. When he got old enough to feed himself, he always kept both hands full of food while he was eating – one to eat now, and one for later. When he learned that I would clean the food out of his “hoarding” hand when the meal was over, he started pitching food onto the floor. After I cleaned him up and started on the high chair he was cleaning the floor for me, squirreling food away anywhere he could think of for later. Because of these tendencies (and because I’m sick of finding rotting food in hidey holes all over the house) we leave his dinner on his plate - or in his bowl – until bedtime so that he can go back and eat more later. Anyway, the point of this whole story is that, although he claimed to love the soup, apparently it was better for decorating than for eating.
So here it is, my glorious asparagus soup. It really was quite tasty. Steve added a piece or two of buttered whole-grain bread and seemed – I thought – quite satisfied. Until he decided we needed dessert. I told him he was in charge of that.
This is what he came up with.