In addition to tasting fantastic, looking cool and being a nutritional powerhouse, asparagus is flexible. It also has that bizarre way of making certain things smell funny…but we won’t go there. Asparagus can be roasted, grilled, blanched, boiled. It can be dipped, drizzled, chopped or pureed into soup. It can be pickled, eaten cooked or eaten raw.
I greedily grabbed asparagus at the farmer’s market. I really did. It was embarrassing. Last Saturday I cleaned out one of the vendor’s entire stock except for one bunch (and that was at 8 a.m.) You don’t want to come behind me at the farmer’s market if you want to get anything.
Anyway…so I had a total of about seven pounds of asparagus over a week and half period. First I blanched and ate with butter and also added some to salads. But that was too boring. I had to branch out and try something new.
In my new favorite cookbook, the Joy of Pickling, there is a recipe for pickled asparagus. It calls for tall 12 oz. jars for canning. If I’d planned in advance, I could have gotten some here. But of course I didn’t so I ended up using pint jars. Functional, but not as easy and definitely not as impressive looking.
Since I’m a pro now at canning (third time’s a charm) I had no issues facing my waterbath canner for the canning task. Note the presence of the jar lifter. Santa was good to Kung Fu this year. It is still exciting to hear the pop, pop, pop after pulling the jars from the water. The jars are like little cheerleaders – “You did it! You so don’t suck!” Not like the fish from last year, who hated me.
Now it’s the long wait – I have to hold off a total of three weeks after canning to taste the asparagus and see if my little cheerleaders were right. Argh! That’s like telling a kid Christmas has been delayed due to technical difficulties.
Meanwhile, back at the stove, I still had two pounds of asparagus and I knew exactly what to do with them. A few years ago I discovered this cream of asparagus soup recipe in an old cookbook, quite similar to this one. It sounds a little funky but man, oh man is it ever good! Anyone who says they don’t like asparagus should try this.
In the recipe I use, it calls for onions instead of leeks (although leeks is an intriguing idea). I sauté the onion in the butter, then add two pounds of cut up asparagus and my homemade chicken stock and fresh basil. It simmers for about a half hour, then pureed within an inch of its life. Straining it through a colander is a good idea, but use one that’s not too fine otherwise it will sit there and hold the soup rather than strain it (I know). A food mill would probably work well too but I haven’t’ tried that. Anyway, if you don’t strain it at all you end up with little woody pieces randomly in your soup. Kind of messes up the elegant effect. And when you’re serving heads of state, high class foodies or your husband’s boss you just don’t want to kung faux pas the elegance.
Asparagus is a great vegetable. There are so many…I’m really excited about the upcoming green bean crop. I know. I’m pretty lame.