Enjoy the Springtime harvest of asparagus with this delicious soup recipe!
It’s perhaps the first locally grown vegetable to hit the markets every year; in fact, many produce stands don’t open for the season until the asparagus harvest begins. So there’s always plenty of it to be found here in April and May, and some local farmers who are my sweetie’s patients (he’s a podiatrist in Woodbury) bring in bags of it for the office!
That happened the other day, and I found myself with somewhere near ten pounds of asparagus to cook up quickly. And what’s one of the best things to do when you have an over-abundance of a vegetable? Make soup, of course.
My recipe that follows is simple to prepare and easy to customize with your own favorite toppings and “add-ins”. I made some pesto-flavored croutons, but you could also top it with shredded cheddar cheese, Greek yogurt, sour cream and chives or even a little fresh tomato salsa. Use your imagination … and whatever is available fresh from your local farmers and markets!
Asparagus Soup with Bacon and Leeks
Introduction and ingredients
I love using leeks instead of white onions when preparing vegetable-centric soups and stews. They have a mellower, sweeter flavor and also enhance the color of the final soup. That said, if you cannot find leeks you can absolutely use a whole sweet yellow onion as a substitute.
Also, if you are following a vegetarian diet you can omit the bacon and use olive oil as your “fat” for cooking the vegetables. However, I am a big pork enthusiast, especially as my mother raises her own pastured pigs on a natural diet. Don’t be afraid of enjoying healthy pork if you can get your meat from a quality source!
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes
2 pounds trimmed asparagus (just bend and snap them, discarding the woody, white part of the stalk)
3 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, washed thoroughly and sliced into rings
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 pound bacon, diced
1/4 pound Italian bread, cubed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 package Lipton Onion Soup Mix (my “secret ingredient” for a little extra flavor)
2 cups water
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1. Wash and prep the asparagus
After trimming the asparagus of its tough, woody ends, rinse thoroughly under running water. Asparagus is typically ground in very sandy soil, so be sure to wash it well before proceeding!
Then, cut the asparagus into pieces about 1″ in length. Set aside about half of the tips for later.
2. Prepare your mise en place
Start preheating the oven to 400°F. Meanwhile, assemble your “mise en place” – that is, get all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go.
3. Make the pesto croutons
Toss the cubed bread with the prepared pesto, fresh ground pepper, and 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oven is at temperature, toast them for 8-10 minutes until just browning and turning crispy. Don’t burn them!
4. Cook the bacon
In a large stock pot over medium-low heat, cook the bacon slowly. You want to release the flavor-filled fat, but don’t cook it at too high a temperature or for too long — no more than 6-8 minutes.
When the bacon is browned and crisp, remove from the pot and drain on paper towels.
5. Cook the leeks in the bacon fat
Add the sliced leeks to the pot and saute over medium heat in the bacon fat until just softened — about 3-4 minutes.
6. Add the asparagus, garlic and potatoes
Add all of the asparagus except for the tips set aside earlier, the potatoes and garlic to the leeks. Stir well to coat with the bacon fat and cook until the asparagus has turned a bright green, even color — about 3-4 minutes.
7. Add the liquid ingredients
Next, add the vegetable stock, water and onion soup mix — it should be enough liquid to cover all of the vegetable ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
8. Cook the reserved asparagus tips
Meanwhile, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the reserved asparagus tips and cook until just tender, no more than 4-5 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to stop them from cooking further; set aside.
9. Puree the soup
Puree the soup, either in a food processor or (preferably) using a hand-held immersion blender. When smooth and creamy, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
10. Plate and serve…and enjoy!
Ladle the pureed soup into bowls for serving. Top with the reserved, cooked asparagus tips and the pesto croutons. Enjoy! This soup is hearty enough to make a meal on its own, especially if served with a fresh green salad on the side.