Spring? What spring?
When I awoke this morning it was beautifully sunny...but only 11 degrees Fahrenheit! Needless to say, it's still soup weather in Milwaukee! Here is a soup that is a tribute to spring with fresh asparagus but also a wonderfully warming soup if it's still chilly in your part of the world.
Both recipes are from Stir: Mixing it Up in the Italian Tradition by Barbara Lynch. One of my favorite cookbooks! I cut down on the heavy cream by a little over half to reduce some of the fat and I also used unsalted chicken stock rather than the water called for the recipe.
Creamy Asparagus Soup with Saffron CroutonsAdapted from Stir: Mixing It Up In The Italian Tradition
by Barbara Lynch
1-1/2-2 pounds asparagus, tough bottoms trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons butter
2 large shallots, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups water (or unsalted chicken stock as I used)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives (I omitted as I didn't have them)
Melt the butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the chopped shallots and cook until the shallots are soft but not browned, stirring occasionally, for about 5-6 minutes. Add the water (or chicken stock) and the cream, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper (I like highly peppered soup). Increase heat and bring liquid to boil. Add the asparagus pieces and lower to a simmer. Cook until the asparagus is tender but still quite green, about 5-7 minutes
Puree the soup in batches in a blender (or use an immersion blender as I did right in the stock pot). Pour the soup over a large, fine mesh strainer into a large, heat resistant bowl or another large sauce pan, pressing on the solids to remove as much liquid as possible. (I scraped everything that stuck to the bottom of the sieve into the pot). Discard the solids.
Gently reheat the soup if serving warm. Stir in lemon juice (I did not use), and season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Top with croutons and optional chives and serve. Pass extra croutons at the table.
Makes 2 cups (I doubled the original recipe)
6 slices of bread, preferably brioche, (I used sliced French bread from my bakery), crusts removed.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
Heat the oven to 325F. Cut the bread into approximately 1/4 inch cubes. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Add the saffron and gently cook for about 1-2 minutes to infuse the oil with the flavor and color of the saffron. Add the bread cubes, season with salt and toss to coat with the flavored oil.
Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, tossing occasionally, until crispy and golden, about 12 minutes.
The baked croutons can be stored in an airtight container for a day or two.